Hong Kong’s representation at the rich Dubai carnival was reduced by two after Caspar Fownes retired dirt star Gun Pit and John Moore revealed a change of plans for last start Group One winner Helene Paragon.
Gun Pit was unbeaten in seven starts on Sha Tin’s all-weather track and held the 1,650m course record on the American-style dirt circuit but struggled for top level opportunities domestically on his preferred circuit.
There were plans to take Gun Pit back to Meydan for the Group One Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3, a race he was second in last year before finishing unplaced in the world’s richest race at that time, the Dubai World Cup.
However, Fownes felt a bone chip in the gelding’s left front fetlock was causing too much discomfort to the son of Dubawi.
“It is sad, because he had a lot more to offer – he really had a lot of heart and he was a lovely horse with a beautiful temperament, we will certainly miss him around the stable,” Fownes said.
“His left front joint just gave him too much trouble, so we made the decision to get the bone chip removed, and find him a nice home. The horse’s owner Eddie Cheng Chung-wah is a great friend of mine and we had a lot of fun with this horse.”
Fownes said he had “mixed feelings” as he reflected on Gun Pit’s career, with the local calendar not catering for high-rated dirt horses and Asian options mostly held on sandier tracks on which Gun Pit struggled.
“He was such an exciting horse on a true dirt surface and Dubai and Japan never gave him a chance to show us what he could really do,” Fownes said.
Meanwhile, Moore’s plans for breakout star Helene Paragon were thrown for a loop when owner Sir Po-shing Woo requested his Stewards’ Cup winner stick to a domestic programme rather than contest the US$6 million Group One Dubai Turf.
Moore had already scheduled Helene Paragon’s next start in the Group One Queen’s Silver Jubilee on Sunday week over 1,400m with a view to stepping up to 1,800m at Meydan on March 25.
“We were set to go, and the reason he is racing at 1,400m and not 2,000m was because we were setting him for the 1,800m race in Dubai,” Moore said. “But with a change of plans, it was too late to change things. Still, he is very competitive at 1,400m and will be a force to be reckoned with again.”
Moore still plans to be represented in Dubai, with Not Listenin’tome aimed at the US$2 million Group One Golden Shaheen, a race the trainer won in 2014 with Sterling City, albeit on a different surface.
The decision to contest the Golden Shaheen on the sand surprised many given the US$1 million Al Quoz Sprint over the straight 1,200m is on the same night and a seemingly softer option.
“He was unplaced on the turf in the straight race last year when it was 1,000m and I am going to take a chance on the other surface,” Moore said.
“He has gate speed, which means he can lay-up and not get caught up in that shower of sand. He has always trialled well on the dirt track here, and he worked well on the track there last year. Sure, we are tossing the coin, but he can jump and motor. Plus the race is worth good money, with no tax.”
Moore said Sunday week’s HK$10 million Group One Citi Hong Kong Cup, where he has Werther, Designs On Rome and Basic Trilogy entered, would determine whether or not Not Listenin’tome would be joined by any stablemates on the plane to Dubai.
Moore added that a trip to Sydney for The Championships with Joyful Trinity would not go ahead.
“Australia is out of the question, at least to Sydney in the autumn,” Moore said. “The quarantine was just too demanding and the timing didn’t work. We may still aim horses at the Cox Plate or the Cups in Melbourne during the spring carnival down there.”