Lucky Nine trainer hopeful of rising temperatures
Caspar Fownes mindful of his sprinter's health, but encouraged by forecasts ahead of Sunday's HK$6 million feature
Trainer Caspar Fownes is praying the cold snap eases by the weekend so his "susceptible" champion sprinter, Lucky Nine, can produce his best and book another trip to either Dubai or Japan.
Lucky Nine has won five Group Ones in a glittering career, despite battling exercise- induced pulmonary haemorrhaging - a condition thought to be exacerbated by cooler temperatures.
As temperatures plummeted to as low as seven degrees Celsius yesterday, Fownes was relieved to find the Hong Kong Observatory predicted slightly warmer temperatures on Sunday, but he will still have to juggle the seven-year-old's trackwork this week.
"With this horse, I am always cautious when it is really cold. The weather has been beautiful lately, except for these past few days - the cold weather has come at the wrong time," he said "Let's hope it is a bit hotter on race day because he is a massive chance."
Lucky Nine returned from an early season trip to Australia that garnered mixed results, only to produce a disappointing seventh in the Group One Hong Kong Sprint.
The gelding heads into Sunday's HK$6 million feature having not raced in more than two months, but Fownes has opted to go without a barrier trial after Lucky Nine worked "too well" last Tuesday.
"This week we will do what we need to do - we will give him another blow-out, probably Thursday, but it depends on what the weather is like," Fownes said.
"His fitness is pretty good - he ran some time the other day, but he pulled up well and since then he had a workout with Brett [Prebble], where he didn't do much. He woke up all right and scoped well after that."
Even though Fownes admits Lucky Nine will not be at his best fitness-wise for the 1,200m second leg of the Speed Series, he is counting on class prevailing against a skinny looking field - with none of his nine rivals having won a Group One.
"He will be pretty fresh on the day, but hopefully that will be good enough to give them a spanking," he said. "He is in good shape. He isn't 100 per cent, but I don't think he really needs to be to beat these horses. He has been a consistent horse, he has done us proud and he has hopefully got another good season to go."
A solid effort on Sunday should ensure the jet-setting sprinter is sent on another overseas jaunt - both options are in late March and both legs of the Global Sprint Challenge. Fownes will weigh up either a return to the Golden Shaheen on Dubai World Cup night, where he was third two years ago, or a tilt at the Takamatsunomiya Kinen in Japan.
But Fownes added that staying home for the third leg of the Speed Series - the Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup (1,400m) - seemed equally viable.
"He will be entered for the two overseas races, but that 1,400m race is now worth HK$8 million so it's not chump change - it is serious money in your own backyard," he said.
Meanwhile, Australian jockey Craig Williams will ride First Sight Love for trainer Almond Lee in Sunday's Group One Classic Cup.