Trainer Caspar Fownes didn't even need to have a runner to be walking on air at Melbourne Cup day after seeing Lucky Nine go through his paces on Tuesday morning and declaring him "perfect".
While all eyes were on the Melbourne Cup, Fownes trekked to the quarantine centre at Werribee in the morning to leg up jockey Brett Prebble for Lucky Nine's final gallop ahead of Saturday's VRC Sprint Classic at Flemington. Lucky Nine looked unlucky to lose narrowly in the Manikato Stakes almost two weeks ago when Fownes had admitted pre-race that the six-year-old was short of top fitness for the Group One contest. But the VRC Sprint has been his main target all along, with victory carrying the chance of a US$1 million bonus if Lucky Nine can win the Longines Hong Kong Sprint on December 8 at home, and Fownes liked what he saw on Tuesday.
"He worked really nice. I'm happy, he's right where I want him and fully fit now," Fownes said. "The only minor hiccup we've had was a cut to his left hind leg, which he got in the Manikato and it was right on a joint, which makes it difficult to heal. There was a little infection, which required treatment, and when it looked fixed it blew up again a few days later. But look, he's great, he couldn't be better now."
Australian bookmakers have Lucky Nine a clear favourite for the race, even though he has never won on a straight course in Hong Kong, the style of Saturday's contest.
"I'm not worrying too much about that - Lucky Nine handles pretty much anything you throw at him and he was unlucky in one straight-race run.
"At Sha Tin it's 1,000m straight race too, which is a bit sharp for him and this is 1,200m," he said. "They run them differently at Flemington as well - not as fast early as in Hong Kong - so it will give him a chance to get travelling."