A daytime fixture at Happy Valley was the scene of one of Caspar Fownes’ finest moments as a trainer and the “King of The Valley” heads across town today with a strong team led by sprinter Southern Legend in the Class Two Yip Fat Handicap (1,200m).
Fownes trained six winners at a day meeting at the city circuit in June 2010 and although equalling that personal best will be difficult, the popular trainer does have a strong hand for the venue’s only daytime fixture of the season.
Southern Legend (Nash Rawiller) will be out to maintain a perfect record at the track after storming home to win in Class Two late last season and even though he has drawn awkwardly, Fownes is confident.
He is so confident that the trainer says this could easily be the last opportunity the five-year-old gets at the smaller track, given his belief that the sprinter is headed higher in the ratings.
“He is rated 96 now but in my mind he is definitely a triple-figure horse,” Fownes said. “Hopefully he can put some good efforts together and get that rating up. I know he has a way to go up against those top sprinters, but maybe he can find his way into the top five or six sprinters in town by the end of the season. Let’s hope there are only races for him at Sha Tin by then.”
Southern Legend wasn’t disgraced first-up in good company over an unsuitable 1,000m on opening day and was beaten a head by promising type Pingwu Spark second-up.
“He chased home really hard last start behind a good horse and we know he handles the track well,” Fownes said, admitting barrier eight might be the biggest concern.
“He is versatile though, he can come off the speed or he can be handy – it’s the last race of the day so let’s see how the track is playing and we will come up with a plan. It is the A course, that helps, and the track sees to be playing fair this season. Midfield with some cover would be nice.”
Barriers might also be the biggest hindrance to Fownes’ other chances Jumbo Happiness (barrier nine), Gonna Run (12) and Haymaker (11).
Perhaps Jumbo Happiness is least affected of that trio, as jockey Olivier Doleuze would have been likely to go back anyway as the four-year-old stretches beyond 1,200m for the first time in the Class Three Tai Shue Wan Handicap (1,650m).
The Hong Kong International Sale purchase has been brought along slowly and even though it has always looked like longer trips would suit, Fownes said Jumbo Happiness would be “ridden conservatively to get the trip”.
Apprentice Matthew Poon Ming-fai retains the ride on Haymaker in the Class Five Nam Fung Handicap (1,200m) after a couple of placings and Fownes suggested the six-year-old is his best chance despite the draw.
“He is racing really well, if he had drawn a gate last start he would have won,” Fownes said. “Unfortunately we copped it again at the draw. If he can get some cover that will be great. He is a good horse that has just had problems, but he is coming good.”