Caspar Fownes will undertake an off-season reconnaissance mission to South Korea before deciding whether dirt specialists Gun Pit and Domineer head abroad again and is hopeful of encouraging Group Three efforts by the pair on turf at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Both horses have relished conditions on Sha Tin’s American-style dirt circuit – Gun Pit is unbeaten in seven starts on the all-weather track and Domineer ran close to a course record over 1,200m last season – but they struggled to adapt to a more sandy surface in Dubai in March.
Gun Pit lines up in the Premier Plate (1,800m), while Domineer is one of two runners for Fownes, Dundonnell the other, in the Premier Cup (1,400m), and the trainer says a trip to Korea’s invitational meeting on September 11 is less contingent on their performances on Sunday than what type of surface he finds in Seoul.
“Obviously, we would like to see something more like here at Sha Tin,” Fownes said. “Gun Pit is pretty versatile but he just didn’t handle the kickback there at Meydan when he got in behind the leader, and the track was nothing like we have here at home. We will make the entries for Korea but I’m not sure what the track is like there. I’ll fly over in late July after the season is done and take a look and then we can decide. ”
Gun Pit would be aimed at the Korea Cup (1,800m) and Domineer the Korea Sprint (1,200m), both races are Korean Group Ones, but the trainer hasn’t given up on either horse being competitive on what is clearly not their preferred surface on Sunday.
“Gun Pit’s last couple of runs on the turf have been very encouraging,” Fownes said, referring to surprising efforts running on at big odds against high quality opposition at a mile.
Domineer also raced well at Group Three level after returning from his eighth in the Golden Shaheen in Dubai with a third behind classy sprinters Peniaphobia and Amazing Kids last month.
The concerns for Fownes are poor draws for both, and for Domineer, a query over whether 1,400m is too testing stamina-wise , but he suggested both horses would be ridden positively from wide gates.
“There are only seven runners but Gun Pit has drawn seven and Domineer drew 11 of 11, so we didn’t have much luck there,” he said. “We will make our own luck from the draw on Gun Pit and it will be interesting to see what he does. It’s interesting stepping Domineer up to 1,400m, but he has plenty of speed so hopefully we can find the rail – he is always better on the rail. His last run was good so let’s see what he can do at seven furlongs.”
Relive the 2016 Dubai World Cup meeting with Andrew Hawkins’ live blog: a disappointing night as Hong Kong horses fails to fire
Dundonell hasn’t shown much in three runs since a transfer to Fownes’ stable in March, the last two runs when stretched to a mile, and the trainer said the six-year-old would be limited to sprints in future.
“He has some ongoing back and joint problems, so we are just trying to get him as comfortable as possible,” he said.