Caspar Fownes hopes for Lucky double after rocky road
Preparations for accident-prone star and troubled four-year-old have not been ideal, but trainer is confident they can hit the line in Sunday's Group One races
Regardless of results, Caspar Fownes has produced a noteworthy training effort by getting accident-prone star Lucky Nine and troubled four-year-old Lucky Double Eight to Sunday's two Group Ones.
The pair go into the Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup and Hong Kong Derby, respectively, with less than ideal lead-ups - par for the course for brave sprinter Lucky Nine, while Fownes is taking a nothing-to-lose attitude and a view to the future with still-improving Lucky Double Eight.
It never seems to be smooth sailing with Lucky Nine. He overcame patchy preparations - with bad feet, a dull coat and missed work - to win last month's Group One Chairman's Sprint Prize and stayed true to form heading into a race he won in 2012.
"There have been a few hiccups since that last run, that goes without saying - he has lost his shoe a couple of times," Fownes said.
"But fingers crossed. He has had the work he has needed and goes in good form, he is capable at any distance from 1,200m to a mile and we know how strong he is over this trip."
Lucky Double Eight was purchased out of Australia, where he raced as Stralia and was second to subsequent Group One winner Snitzerland in the Danehill Stakes as a three-year-old. Since arriving he has shown promise with Fownes, but has never been able to find a groove in six starts.
The trainer admits the 2,000m Derby was not the four-year-old race he initially had in mind for the gelding - he was brought in as a potential Hong Kong Classic Mile horse, but he never got there as battles with a hoof issue have forced Fownes' hand.
"I have always felt he was going to turn into a really nice miler, but he has just given us hassles all the way through," Fownes said.
"He had a quarter crack, on and off, but at this stage everything is good with him on that front. We are only just starting to get him fit.
"He is nowhere near fully fit for this race, but we at least got one 1,800m race into him at the Valley and another trial last week. I am doing as much as I can under the circumstances - and looking at the race, he is on the fourth or fifth line of betting at this stage.
"He has a bright future and some good racing ahead of him, but he still hasn't reached anywhere near his potential. I'm very confident he will turn into a Class One horse down the road."
While Fownes was not bullish about Lucky Double Eight's chances, his owner Dr Chang Fuk-to has a history of nearly causing upsets in the feature, with Commander Charlie running second at triple-figure odds in the 1999 Derby.
Chang also raced Bowman's Crossing, who started second favourite behind winner Elegant Fashion in the 2003 edition, finishing 10th, and Roosevelt, who was fourth in the previous year's Hong Kong Vase, but finished last in 2004.