Fownes off the mark, but he's stoked for Ho
Capar Fownes was thrilled to get off the mark with his first victory of the term, but the highlight of his day was watching his apprentice Vincent Ho Chak-yiu complete an inspiring comeback from injury with a win for a rival stable.
Rather than talk-up the solid win of progressive-looking four-year-old Grand Elite, Fownes preferred to heap praise on Ho, who had been sidelined after a sickening fall in February, only returning to the races last week.
"The whole family were there yelling for him, we're rapt for him and I gave him a hug," Fownes said after the 22-year-old rated Double Dragon perfectly in front for Derek Cruz.
Ho suffered a broken arm when he fell and then struck by a trailing horse, and complications three months later delayed his return, a plate and screws required to mend his left forearm.
"It's been a nightmare for him to come back," Fownes said. "We've eased him back, but he is a great kid and has remained very upbeat the whole time, he is a class act. I give him 10-out-of-10 for his demeanour and attitude."
Ho now has two more wins before he graduates, which will reduce his claim to three pounds, and that's when another test of character will begin, according to Fownes.
"Hong Kong is a tough place, especially when you lose that five-pound claim and end up on nearly equal footing," he said. "But if Vincent can kick and hold his own, there's a spot there for him."
Cruz said it was Ho's weight allowance - and a soft, sole lead - that helped the cause of Double Dragon, who also won first-up last season after a drop into Class Four.
"That five-pound claim did the trick, and I'm glad the kid could get some confidence back," Cruz said. "Class Three is a bit strong for this horse, but down in grade, he can pick one up."
By his lofty standards, Fownes had a sub-par season in 2011-12, 39 winners marking his lowest total in his nine years of training, and Grand Elite looks the type of horse that could provide the impetus for an improved effort this term.
"Hopefully we can get some momentum going, we just couldn't get that momentum going last season," Fownes said.