Stable stalwart Flying Keeper makes all the difference for Fownes
Flying Keeper has been one of the season's most visible horses, starting 23 times, and his victory in Class Five set up a thrilling title finish
Flying Keeper was the horse that everyone told Caspar Fownes to dump and he was the horse who shouldered an enormous burden of work but just kept fronting up and he was ultimately the horse who made the difference.
In another epic finish to the trainers' championship, Fownes trailed, then headed, then finally fended off John Size to claim the title with 62 wins apiece but one more second placing that broke the tie.
"I was confident I would have winners today because I'd saved a lot of horses for this meeting but when the entries came out, I realised that John had some big chances too," said Fownes when the dust had settled. "I really thought I could win with Domineer and Gun Pit, and they were the ones that ran second."
Instead it was unfashionable Flying Keeper (Tommy Berry), the unlovely Lovely Boy (Vincent Ho Chak-yiu) and recent stable addition Hidden Value (Neil Callan) who had all but pricked the balloon of a thrilling last day of the trainers' championship by half-time.
"When Mobile King was unlucky in the first race, I was thinking, 'Oh no, here we go - not that sort of day please', but then Flying Keeper came out and Tommy got the job done despite the horse losing a shoe and that was a bit special," Fownes said.
"He's run 23 times for me this season, there haven't been too many days he's missed, but he kept running great races even without winning. He ran at the second meeting last September and he's kept racing all the way to the last. What can I say about him? A lot of people said I should get rid of him but I had faith in him and here I am - he's won me the title."
While his greatest confidence had been for Domineer and Gun Pit, Fownes admitted to some confidence in Lovely Boy and Hidden Value as well.
"Lovely Boy had done a great job last time after a hard run to hold on for second and his last piece of work had been exceptional," he said. "And Hidden Value I thought would be competitive - his first run for me was quite good and he hasn't had a lot of luck in his career before today so I hope there is more in him for next season as a four-year-old. And it was nice to be able to win those couple of races coming from barrier 14 too which is always a nice surprise."
Starting the day one win behind John Size, Fownes would have been forgiven for thinking his efforts to get that far had been a mountain climbed.
"I think I was 15 or 16 behind at one stage, I was a long way off and to chase down John, who's the best trainer we've had here in a long time, that really meant something," Fownes said.
And Size wasn't lying down either, scoring a double himself with Lugar and Wonderful Moments late in the piece to take it to a tiebreaker on seconds.
"Coming down to seconds and thirds I don't think is the right way to decide this - there's no monetary prize that has to be carved up, so we could have been joint champions and that would have been appropriate," Fownes said.
"But it's three championships for me now and I've got time on my side still to add a few more and maybe I'll catch John up with his seven titles. The old fart!"