Caspar Fownes is now part of an exclusive club after collecting his 800th Hong Kong winner on Wednesday night, joining John Moore, Tony Cruz and John Size as the only active trainers to reach the milestone.
The 51-year-old reached the landmark thanks to E Master’s victory in the third event, the first section of the Class Four Man Fung Handicap (1,200m), and it was fitting the “King of the Valley” did it at the city track.
When asked to reflect on the achievement, Fownes acknowledged how far he’d come in his 15 years after initially having to battle for a licence but was adamant that he has plenty of winners still to come.
“It’s wonderful, it’s a big number in Hong Kong and I’m looking forward to getting 1,000 and on,” Fownes said.
“There’s not that many trainers who have got that many in Hong Kong so we’re getting there, I’ve still got a few years on my side.
“It’s been a success story so far and hopefully we can keep it going.”
It took a big effort from E Master to prevail, Sam Clipperton going back from barrier 11 before running over the top of his rivals in his first start for the stable.
“When the draws came out I was gutted, to tell you the truth, because he was flying,” Fownes said.
“But what do you do, first time at the Valley, drawn 11, I said to Sam that I’d rather see him running on than digging into him and he goes forward and it doesn’t work out. So it worked out a treat.
“He won first-up last year, so he’s shown he’s a fresh horse and now hopefully we can go on with it. He’s a nice horse and there’s no reason he can’t go on and snag another race.”
Caspar Fownes brings up a milestone 800th win in Hong Kong with the victory of E-Master in R3 at Happy Valley, which also served as a first win this season for jockey Sam Clipperton #HKRacing #HappyWednesdayHK pic.twitter.com/vu2AkU37xX— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) September 26, 2018
The win gave Clipperton his first winner of the season and the Australian jockey hopes to build from it.
“It’s been a bit of a slog getting going but I’m getting my fitness back and I’m having a bit of a ‘John Size start’ to the season, just start slow and hopefully increase,” Clipperton said.
Speaking of Size, the 10-time champion trainer also notched his first and second victories of the term as smart youngsters Country Star and Red Warrior landed a running double.
Size is renowned for his patience and typically builds into the season, but he was happy with the performance of his progressive types and the rides they got from Zac Purton.
Country Star looks a horse with plenty of potential after scoring a dominant win under @zpurton in R4 at Happy Valley. It was the first win this season for reigning Champion Trainer, John Size #HKRacing #HappyWednesdayHK pic.twitter.com/Muxr2vUI50— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) September 26, 2018
“Given the passage Country Star had you would expect him to win, so he’s probably done what he’s supposed to do and you can’t ask more than that,” Size said.
“The other one had all the favours and they should when they get runs like that on the C+3 track, so they were entitled to win.
“They’ll get a more difficult assignment next start and then we’ll see where they are going.”
While Size’s duo started as short-priced favourites, punters who delved deep enough into the form guide could have found the opening winner of the night when the Tony Cruz-trained Multimax took out the Class Five Heung Yip Handicap (1,000m).
Multimax showed plenty of promise early in his career, beating Blizzard (who subsequently placed in three Group Ones) in his second start, while he edged out D B Pin (who won the Group One Centenary Sprint Cup last season) at the Valley in July 2016.
Despite beating those quality types, Multimax endured a 29-start drought before Wednesday night’s performance as Karis Teetan sat outside the early leader Trendiful to score at $8.75.
The win pushed Cruz to the top of the trainers’ championship with six and he was joined on that mark by rookie trainer Jimmy Ting Koon-ho, who continued his terrific form with Amazing Gold in the other Class Five event.
Matthew Poon Ming-fai finished the night with a “Sparkling” double after guiding home Francis Lui Kin-wai’s Sparkling Sword and Sparkling Dragon from the Michael Freedman yard.
Matthew Poon produces his second "Sparkling" front-running ride of the night, getting Sparkling Dragon home in the closer at Happy Valley for trainer Michael Freedman #HKRacing #HappyWednesdayHK pic.twitter.com/P6mbJ6baOK— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) September 26, 2018
Fellow apprentice Dylan Mo Hin-tung grabbed the other winner of the night as he punched home the Danny Shum Chap-shing-trained Most Beautiful.
Grant van Niekerk was the only jockey suspended, copping a two-meeting ban in the last race for his ride on Strathclyde. He will miss the meetings on October 7 and 10.