It will be a very proud father who looks on at Sha Tin tomorrow as his son and protege, Caspar, accepts his first trophy as the new champion trainer. Lawrie Fownes bowed out of racing, admittedly not on his own terms, in 2003 when he was forced to take compulsory retirement by the Jockey Club at age 65. He left with 'no regrets' but just one wish unfulfilled - that he hadn't added a Hong Kong premiership to the five he'd landed as the premier handler in India. 'It would have been nice to have won the trainers' championship, instead of being just one win away [behind dead-heaters John Moore and David Hill in 1992-93],' he said at the time. 'Now, that's something Caspar can aim at, and do the one thing I just failed to do.' At the end of Caspar's fourth season at the helm, Fownes Snr is here, watching proudly over his son, and you get a clear feeling from him of life's cup now being brimful ... of the satisfaction most men dream about but never achieve. 'I'm very, very proud of what he has done,' Fownes said this week, safe in the knowledge that arch-rival Paul O'Sullivan would have to train 10 winners on tomorrow's 11-event card at Sha Tin - and Caspar none - for the championship to be lost. 'And the unusual thing in such a competitive environment like this is that it seems everyone is happy about it. The club is delighted because it's vindicated their judgment call four years ago, our owners are delighted and even among his rival trainers, there seems to be only good wishes coming from them and no resentment or jealousy. 'I think that says a lot about the way Caspar has achieved this. He has a great personality, he can mix the serious stuff with a bit of fun and he's popular with just about everyone, from the mafoos right through to the most senior people at the club.' It's a far call from the agony Fownes Snr endured when, in early 2003, the Jockey Club announced that David Ferraris and Danny Shum Chap-shing were the new licensees and Caspar had been passed over. The distress saw Lawrie downed with a savage attack of shingles - the first serious health setback of his life - and prompted him to write an emotion-charged letter published by the South China Morning Post that engaged enormous public sympathy. Two months down the track, trainer Peter Chapple-Hyam handed in his licence and Caspar was handed his. A new chapter began. There is something even more important than victory to Fownes who doesn't mind being called old-fashioned when it comes to his values. 'Right at the start, I told Caspar the same things my father told me. An ounce of luck is worth a ton of judgment, always beware of the glorious uncertainty of racing, and at all times look after your horses and the person who pays the bills. 'But the most important of all, I told him, was to keep your integrity. It's a business where there is a lot of money around and it's easy to get trapped. I told him 'no funny business' - make sure the horses are trying all the time, that you can always look your owners in the eye, and you will be successful.' Fownes Snr has no qualms with anyone who says that Caspar is a better trainer than he was. 'He is better,' the popular veteran agrees emphatically, knowing that's how it's supposed to be if he has done his job properly. So what are the distinctions that have enabled Caspar to take the family's training performance to this new level, defeating a raft of champion trainers from both Hong Kong and many overseas jurisdictions in the process. 'For one, he's almost a local, he learned to speak Cantonese and he's very comfortable talking and sharing a laugh with the local boys around the stable - so he has their absolute respect and they'll do anything for him,' Lawrie says. 'Secondly, he's committed to being on the edge. He went to America and Australia, and he learned from some great trainers, apart from what he learned here in Hong Kong. But it wasn't so much the actual training, rather the subtle techniques at treating injuries, problem feet and that sort of thing. He's always on the cutting edge with advances in veterinary techniques. 'The third thing is, he's training a bit differently to me in that once a horse is fit and started racing, he really backs off them. He can sometimes take a horse two weeks or more between races, and not even give it a gallop. Or else he might give it some high-impact work in a barrier trial but nothing else other than canters. 'He uses his eye, looking at the horse and his general condition, to decide whether the horse is fit enough, rather than committing himself to, say, a Thursday gallop, whether the horse actually needs it or not.' Fownes says it's that third difference, backing off the horses once they are race fit, that is proving such a winner for the yard. 'Look at how the horses have responded,' he says. 'A horse like Star Prodigy for example, a very limited horse, but Caspar's been able to conjure three wins out of him for the season, all in Class Five. He's just found the secret to horses like these and he trains all of them differently, to suit the individual horse. And that's why they've lasted the entire season.' For the man himself, it's all been a dream come true. He was a winner from day one, when the first runner of his fledgling career, Champion Boy, won in the opening meeting of the 2003-04 season. The first person to hail Caspar as a future champion trainer was Jockey Club chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, in his former role as executive director of racing. When Caspar prepared a five-timer at Sha Tin on January 1, 2004, midway through his first season as a trainer, Engelbrecht-Bresges observed: 'This is a tremendous achievement by a first-season trainer and I have no doubt Caspar has what it takes to win a trainers' championship in future.' He ended his rookie term with 44 wins and finished in sixth position on the trainers' ladder. It was a significant number because in that maiden season, he eclipsed Lawrie's best-ever season in a portent of things to come. After Prime Delight bolted away to land the last race at Happy Valley on Wednesday night, Caspar's career total of winners stands at 191, with the first and last winners being ridden by Gerald Mosse, who has also been the most successful jockey for the yard this term, with 13 wins. The Fownes racing stable has become even more of a family affair with the involvement of Caspar's sister Finella as a personal assistant. She joined the team almost two years ago, according to Lawrie, and 'absolutely loves the work'. 'Finella has been invaluable to Caspar because being a trainer involves so many things apart from paying attention to the horses,' Fownes Snr says. 'Finella has taken responsibility for a lot of these details and she's become quite outstanding in her communications with the owners. She keeps them up to date all the time and that takes a lot of pressure off Caspar.' Behind the scenes, there is a successful home life for Caspar, with wife Alix - daughter of another former Hong Kong trainer, the late Bruce Hutchison - and their two sons, Brian and Ronan. Mid season, there was another highlight for the Fownes yard when stable stalwart The Duke won the HK$16 million Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Mile. It was the first international Group One for either father or son and achieved with a popular veteran who was the last horse remaining from the string Caspar inherited in 2003. Flash back to August 31, 2003, when Champion Lad won the opening race and Caspar bounced into the winner's circle thinking 'it doesn't get any better than this'. It appears he was wrong, and by a good measure. Fownes fact file Age: 39 Family: Wife Alix, sons Brian, Ronan Career grounding: 18 years with father Lawrie, plus postings in Australia, US Licensed by HKJC: 2003 First winner: Champion Lad (Gerald Mosse) August 31, 2003 Champion trainer: 2006-07 Major winners: The Duke (2007 Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Mile, 2004 HK Mile Trial); Saturn (2005 Queen Mother Memorial Cup) Special mention: 2006 Sha Tin Trophy (Grade 3), finishing first, second, third and fourth - Green Treasure, The Duke, Bowman's Crossing and Saturn - from five runners.