Fownes motivated by father Lawrie
Former trainer's ailing health adds poignancy to son Caspar's late bid to be champion again
When he was a child, Caspar Fownes followed his horse-training father Lawrie around his Sha Tin stables, watching and learning - leading to the day where he again followed in his hero's footsteps, becoming one of Hong Kong's leading trainers.
On Sunday, at what promises to be a dramatic and emotionally-charged season finale at Sha Tin, Fownes said his father's ailing health will add significance to his attempt to overhaul seven-time champion John Size and become champion trainer for the third time.
As Fownes has made a stunning late season charge to trail Size by just one, with 59 wins to his rival's 60, leading into Sunday's 11-race card, Lawrie has bravely battled cancer, yet remained a stoic racetrack presence during his son's quest to add to championships won in 2007 and 2009.
"I've really knuckled down to try to do something special for him and it would be amazing if I could nail it for him on the final day of the season," said Fownes, who trailed Size by 19 wins at the start of the year and was still spotting the leader 15 victories at the start of April before his late surge.
Fownes said that while it would be an enormous relief to lift the championship trophy, his 77-year-old father's unwavering support was more gratifying than any award.
"He said it doesn't matter what you achieve, you've shown everybody you are a champion - that means more than anything to hear those words come out of my father's mouth," Fownes said. "He is tough and he has been amazing to be around at this time. His spirit hasn't been broken and it is remarkable how he has handled things."
Fownes has a slight numerical advantage with 12 runners to Size's 11, but still declared the Australian favourite: "He has got a strong team, and having a short-priced favourite like Luger certainly helps late in the day."
Jockey club officials expect a crowd in the vicinity of 50,000 and turnover approaching HK$1.6 billion for Sunday's meeting, which begins at 12.30pm.