Caspar Fownes expects a couple of horses to be too slick for Southern Legend in Sunday’s Class One HKSAR Chief Executive’s Cup (1,200m) with his focus firmly on the Hong Kong International Races in December.
Southern Legend came along in leaps and bounds last season and was somewhat of a giant killer as he inflicted defeats on Nothingilikemore and Pakistan Star while increasing his rating by 30 points to 123.
He did that by coming third in the Group One Champions Mile while he also captured the Group One Kranji Mile in Singapore.
So the hunter now becomes the hunted with the six-year-old having to carry top weight in the season-opening feature after finishing fifth on the minimum in the same race 12 months ago.
“He’s a lot stronger [than last year] – he keeps improving, but first-up over 1,200m, he’ll find it tough,” Fownes said.
“Obviously 1,200m is going to be a little on the sharp side for him and 133 [pounds] is going to be a concern giving some nice young horses a bit of weight there but he’s very well in himself and we’ll try to progress through each race coming up before December.
“If he can finish in the first three I’ll be very happy but as a rule in this race, the lightweights have a huge advantage – they tend to perform first-up as well. But it’s all about December for us.”
Last season, Southern Legend just missed out on making the field for the Hong Kong Mile and Fownes had to settle for winning the Class One on the card, but there are no concerns this time around.
“He’ll follow a similar path to last year but he’s got the rating on the board this time so he’s there to fight with the big boys,” he said.
Zac Purton was aboard for Southern Legend’s dominant Singapore success and again when he took out a recent barrier trial, but Chad Schofield jumps aboard on Sunday with the reigning champion opting to partner Winner’s Way.
Purton guided the Tony Cruz-trained gelding to victory in the Group Three Sha Tin Vase in May while he also partnered him when second to Fabulous One in a trial a fortnight ago.
“Winner’s Way has raced well fresh before and he beat quite a good group of horses the last time I won on him, that was such a good run. If he gets anywhere near that performance again he’ll be well-placed,” Purton said.
“Winner’s Way’s trial was pretty good, I thought he attacked the line well and I think he’s got as good a chance as anything in the race.
“He would normally be disadvantaged at the weights but there are actually quite a few horses out of the handicap in this race, so that gives the horses at the top a bit of a better chance this year.”