Caspar Fownes climbed out of the doldrums that have characterised his season to claim his first winning treble of the term at Happy Valley last night and restore some confidence to finish the season off.
Fownes struck late, with Renaissance Art and Apache Spirit under Zac Purton and So Caffe for Joao Moreira taking the final three races, putting the bounce back in Fownes’ dance steps after a tough season.
The three wins took him to 39 for the term and seventh place on the table, not a disaster by any means but not in keeping with his usual status as a challenger for championship honours.
And all three of the wins had a lot in common with Fownes’ own season, with Renaissance Art returning from a year in the wilderness, Apache Spirit stringing two wins together in a week as he turned around his Hong Kong career and So Caffe on the way back to where his early days suggested he should have been before now.
“There are plenty of stories where gelding the horse was the making of him but Renaissance Art has been one of the other ones,” Fownes said after watching a smart ride from Purton bring home the five-year-old by an eased down four and three quarter lengths.
“That’s how you would expect him to win a race when he’s rated 80. This is a Group class horse.
“At this time last year, he was flying. He won very well here and then I fancied him in the Queen Mother Memorial Cup and he ran a great second. The world was his oyster.”
But Renaissance Art was also a colt at that time and connections decided to geld him, with unforeseen
“From the time he was cut, he went sour,” Fownes said. “He took a long time to get over it and his form all season has shown that.
But just lately I thought he was coming back to himself and I told the owner we might get away with one again before the end of the season.
“I mean, what we saw tonight, that’s the real Renaissance Art and now he’s turned the corner again, I’ve got high hopes for him.”
Apache Spirit looks to have turned his own corner after Fownes elected to bring him back in trip to offset the horse’s tendency to want to run fiercely and it looks to have worked.
Parked in midfield by Purton, he was strong at the finish again to arrive by a neck.
“It’s nice to see him hitting the line with some purpose,” Fownes said.
“He’s taken a long time to start getting it right. These European horses can be tough work – by the time you get their mental game right, they’ve already started developing other problems so you have to be happy winning two on end like that.”
Moreira dominated in the saddle again, winning the first on I’m A Witness for Tony Cruz, the fifth on Vara Pearl – part of a Tony Millard double that took the South African trainer within one win of his best-ever season – and the last on So Caffe.
David Price of Price Bloodstock has had a long history with the Da Silvas, owners of I’m A Witness –
including, of course selling, them the great Silent Witness.
And Price said the breakthrough win for the four-year-old was an appropriate reward for a solid first season.
“He’s been going most of the season, he’d won a million dollars in stakes before his first win tonight and I think he’s a bombproof prospect around Happy Valley for next season,” he said.
“Of course, I’ve told Archie many times that you only get one Silent Witness in your life, but this horse is going to pay his way for sure.
“He’s got speed, a good attitude and toughness and all that adds up to a solid Happy Valley horse.”
Keith Yeung Ming-lun was the only victim in the stewards’ room, copping a two-day ban for an open and shut case of careless riding in the opening race on Winning King.