Caspar Fownes has his sights set on the world’s richest race with Gun Pit, indicating he will push for a start in the US$10 million Dubai World Cup by throwing the dirt star in the deep end with a Group One appearance at Meydan on March 5.
Gun Pit flies out today and Fownes said his five-year-old would be given the tougher of two lead-up options with a run in the US$400,000 Group One Al Maktoum Challenge R3 on March 5 against the likes of world-class surface specialists Frosted, Keen Ice and Mubtaahij.
“We could have run in the Group Three over a mile on the same night, but we will go straight to 2,000m and try and get him into the World Cup over the same distance three weeks later,” Fownes said.
“If it doesn’t work out, we still have an invite for the Group Two Godolphin Mile on World Cup night, it’s a US$1 million race, so that is nothing to sneeze at.
“The Group One is not only a chance to see how he handles the competition, but more importantly, how he handles the surface.”
Gun Pit is unbeaten in seven races on Sha Tin’s tight dirt track, a traditional American-type surface, but failed badly when faced with a deeper sand-based profile in Japan last December.
“Let’s hope he enjoys it in Dubai because I feel he is ready to run some big races,” Fownes said after watching his horse complete a strong workout yesterday morning.
“The only thing that will stop him, if it is too deep for him over there, because recent history tells you that the best dirt form from Hong Kong stacks up anywhere on similar surfaces.”
Not only was Gun Pit’s work impressive yesterday, his last local run was a surprising sixth on the turf in the Group Three Centenary Vase.
“The way he ran on the grass was certainly encouraging, it was a great sign,” Fownes said.
On Sunday, the trainer’s attention will be closer to home with a runner in each of the features, Military Attack in the Group One Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup, and recent stable transfer Dundonnell to contest the Group One Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup.
“Old Military is usually like clockwork in the week of a big race, something goes wrong and he messes you around – but, fingers crossed, this time he is mostly fine,” Fownes said of the eight-year-old, who won the race in 2013 and 2014.
“He put in a nice piece of work last weekend and is just ticking over. We haven’t had long to get a handle on Dundonnell, he looks a nice horse, but this is a chance to see if he is up to playing with the big boys.”