Caspar Fownes is ready to take on the world with Gun Pit after the budding dirt star maintained his perfect record on Sha Tin's all-weather track and smashed his own track record in a scintillating performance on Wednesday night.
In a race that was programmed to appease Fownes' wish for a high class dirt contest for his surface specialist, Gun Pit powered away as $16 favourite in the Class One and will now head to next month's Group One Champions Cup at Chukyo on December 6.
Given a picture-perfect ride by Zac Purton, the five-year-old took more than a second off his own 1,650m track record and, in Fownes' mind at least, did enough to prove he is ready to be tested in some of the world's biggest dirt contests.
"That was impressive, he is a very exciting horse on the surface and we look forward to bigger and better things with him," Fownes said, not only confirming Japan but looking further ahead to the Dubai World Cup carnival early next year and perhaps even next year's Breeders' Cup.
"We are only just scratching the surface with this guy too - he has carried a big weight there and the way he won, it should put his rating to a point where he gets into these races."
Gun Pit has now won seven from seven on Sha Tin's dirt track, but Fownes still has some reservations about whether the son of Dubawi will handle Chukyo's deeper sand-based mix as well.
However, the fact Gun Pit will race left-handed for the first time in Japan and step up to 1,800m for the first time on dirt holds no fears for Fownes.
"I think the distance won't be a problem at all - you could see him there, he was very strong to the line," he said. "The only question mark will be the Japanese dirt surface."
Earlier in the meeting, Joao Moreira continued his record-breaking pace by riding three of the first four winners of the meeting, with Tony Millard-trained maidens Crimson Heart and Cartoon Fay Fay bookending a win on Modern Fortune for John Size.
Moreira now has 46 wins from 20 meetings, and he showed his famous magic touch was alive and well, with his three winners entering last night with a combined record of just one win from 69 starts.
Still, despite Moreira's apparent ability to turn a horse's form around, Millard is a hard marker when it comes to his riders.
"The horse should have won last start but Joao made a mistake," the trainer said, referring to Cartoon Fay Fay's third after missing the kick two Sundays ago. "Even Joao makes mistakes sometimes."
Size said Modern Fortune had limited ability but his will to win and a propensity for the dirt was enough to win for the second time in four starts this season.
"He is lucky we have a dirt track here," Size said. "As far as ability goes, he is pretty limited but he has very good character and that's been enough to win him a couple."
While Moreira has already secured one of the local spots for next month's International Jockeys' Championship as last season's champion jockey, the race for the two places open to club jockeys continued to heat up, with all four riders still in contention scoring wins.
Wins by Brett Prebble on Elite Spirit, Purton on Gun Pit, Karis Teetan on Happy Chappy and Douglas Whyte on Majestic Anthem ensured the battle will continue at the next two meetings.
The local spots for the IJC will be confirmed after next Wednesday's fixture at Happy Valley, with Prebble and Whyte now tied for second in the jockeys' championship on 16 wins and Purton and Teetan on 14.
From the stewards' room, Richard Fourie was the sole casualty, incurring a three-day careless riding ban for his effort on Rock The Tree in the fourth. He will miss two meetings during international week, December 9 and 13, as well as December 16.