Debutant Tigre Du Terre did not only surprise punters when he ran a close second on debut at triple-figure odds but he shocked his trainer too.
Caspar Fownes is renowned for having heavily backed horses but his European import was friendless in the betting on Hong Kong International Races day last month, going around at $142 after a couple of underwhelming trials.
With an eye towards the four-year-old series and the grand final of March’s Hong Kong Derby, Fownes said he would have been happy to see his highly touted debutant “beat a couple of horses home”.
The Class Two race on the day has produced Derby winners in the past with Werther most recently travelling the path to victory.
On top of that, Fownes is comforted by the class that has come out of the race with current Derby favourite Dark Dream running strongly in it alongside Charity Go and Easy Go Easy Win.
“It was a lovely run first-up, it was a very strong race and there were a few hard luck stories in it, including us,” he said.
“I was only expecting him to beat a few horses home and I would have been happy with that on what he had shown.
“On his trial, he trialled like a horse that wanted a mile and we were only trialling over 1,000m. His overseas form tells you that as well, he’s a mile to 2,000m horse.
Joao Moreira drives Insayshable to a narrow victory from highly promising newcomer Tigre Du Terre in R6 at Sha Tin: John Size's gelding survives an objection and all eyes now turn to Beauty Generation in the LONGINES Hong Kong Mile #HKracing pic.twitter.com/B3M7alwtXu— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) December 9, 2018
After copping interference from the winner, Insayshable, early in the straight, Fownes lodged a protest, but it was knocked back by stewards.
Tigre Du Terre boasted one of the best European three-year-old records, only missing a placing once in his nine starts before being sold to Hong Kong.
Despite being a pre-post favourite for the Golden Mile during the Goodwood Festival last year, the horse was sold for an “astronomical” figure before the race, according to his former connections.
He will line up in the Class Two Lung Kong Handicap (1,600m) on Sunday as a final hit-out before the four-year-old series kicks off later this month.
“He has pulled up well from that run, he did some work on the grass on Thursday and he looks a treat,” Fownes said.
“He has drawn a bit awkward in gate eight but he’s versatile because you can ride him anywhere. Look at his overseas form and he can lead, he can sit midfield or he can come from the back, which is great because he’s not a one trick pony.”
With a Hong Kong rating of 87, Tigre Du Terre is all but certain to have qualified for the series, but Fownes said he was keen to earn his spot on the back of a win on Sunday.
“They’re tricky races those four-year-old series, you get something in there that is really high and everything changes,” he said.
“You don’t know what these horses’ true ratings are yet, they are only lightly raced and only starting to come on.
“It will be a bit of fun, the series, this year because there are some really nice horses on paper, if they can step-up, it will be really strong.”
While Fownes’ key hope is certain to go around a lot shorter than the $142 he debuted at, he will be up against other four-year-old series hopes in Furore, Heavenly Thought, Helene Leadingstar and Enrichment.