Caspar Fownes has called on the Jockey Club to upgrade the training facilities at Sha Tin and provide better options for horses who struggle to handle the firm tracks.
The two-time champion trainer put forward his case after a treble at the final meeting of the season – using the example of two of his winners – Have Fun Together and Defining Moment.
Fownes said the addition of the Conghua facility provided an option for horses like them, but he wants to take it to another level.
“Both those horses of mine have joint problems. It’s hard to maintain fitness and keep them going,” Fownes said.
“I’ve said it for a while now, we need a different training surface in Sha Tin. The club is finally on board with that and I just hope they can do it sooner rather than later.
“It’s taking its toll, the pressure it on, horses are jarring up on the constant firmness on the dirt tracks and the grass tracks. We need different training methods – we need water treadmills, water walkers – things that are going to help them.
“We’ve got to push for it, times are changing. We can’t be putting too much pressure on these horses, they can’t take it.
“Once the horses are fit and well, you’ve just got to be able to maintain them in a different routine.
“It gives you a chance to get the best out each horse. I’m happy to pay and put my own water walker in my own yard, let’s get the party started. We need these things.”
Have Fun Together broke through for his maiden Hong Kong win at his 16th start, but it has been a battle to get him to produce his best, with the owners transferring the four-year-old from Frankie Lor Fu-chuen to Fownes earlier this year.
“He’s got a lot of problems, internal bleeding, joint problems. A lot of bone pain. It’s very hard to get these horses to a fit level and maintain them,” said Fownes, who also tasted success with Formula Galore.
“I knew today he would run well, but you can’t be confident they are going to stretch out, especially on a firm track.
“I wish I could get more stable transfer horses. I love getting them in. That’s where the fun is, I like to get horses and try to improve them and get some winning results.”
Van Niekerk times run to perfection
Grant van Niekerk’s win on Harmony Victory in Sunday’s feature, the Class One Sha Tin Mile Trophy, was weeks in the making.
The South African was suspended earlier this month and could have opted to miss the last two meetings of the season and extend his holidays but chose earlier fixtures to be back in time to ride Harmony Victory and King Opie.
The only catch was that they were both carrying the bottom weight of 113 pounds, requiring a two days of fasting from Van Niekerk who had ridden just five horses at that weight this season.
“I’m starving now,” Van Niekerk joked after the win of Harmony Victory who rattled home from near last to win. “I knew I had good rides in Harmony Victory and King Opie [fourth] and they have both run great races. I really wanted to ride some winners at the back-end of the season to give me a good go at the start of the next one and I have managed to.”
The win caps off a bumper debut season for the 27-year-old who managed 31 winners this term.
Hong Kong quinella at York
Globetrotting gallopers Red Verdon and Gold Mount – both with Hong Kong connections – completed the quinella in the Group Three John Smith’s Silver Cup in Britain on Saturday.
The Ed Dunlop-trained Red Verdon, who is owned by former Jockey Club chairman Ronald Arculli and finished down the track in last year’s Longines Hong Kong Vase, landed his first Group victory by running over the top of Gold Mount, another who spent time at Sha Tin.
HKIR: Ronald Arculli relives the glory days of River Verdon and Red Cadeaux as he chases more Hong Kong Vase riches
Gold Mount, who is owned by Pan Sutong and was previously trained by Richard Gibson, jumped as favourite but couldn’t match his rival late.
Both horses are a chance to head to the Ebor Handicap next while a trip to Australia for a Melbourne Cup campaign is also an option for the two stayers.
Beauty Generation dethroned
Beauty Generation was named Hong Kong Horse of the Year for a second time on Friday night, but his stint at the top of the World’s Best Racehorse rankings is officially over.
Sir Michael Stoute’s Crystal Ocean moves to the front of the queue for his performance when winning the Group One Prince of Wales’s Stakes (2,000m) at Royal Ascot.
Crystal Ocean earned a rating of 127 for that effort, jumping two clear of Beauty Generation, who is tied alongside Winx (who was named Hong Kong’s most admired overseas racehorse on Sunday) and City Of Light.
Sprinters Blue Point and Santa Ana Lane are next in line on 124, ahead of Enable and Happy Clapper with 123.
Hong Kong’s champion stayer Exultant has a mark of 120.
Kan protesting with the people
Five-time champion trainer Brian Kan Ping-chee hit the streets of Sheung Shui on Saturday, part of a rally against mainland Chinese visitors and parallel traders.
The 81-year-old, who also spent time as a politician in the area, was interviewed on television as the protest was going on.
Thats why he is one of the greatest trainer in Hong Kong racing history. BRIAN KAN went to "Reclaim Sheung Shui" protest and supported the REAL Hong Kong people #antiELAB #hkracing pic.twitter.com/Zn69vNW6oK— nicklas (@nicklasyip) July 13, 2019
“The government is useless,” he said.
Kan, who collected 844 winners across 25 years, was a mentor for rookie trainer Jimmy Ting Koon-ho, who has enjoyed a strong start to his career with 38 victories this season.
Whyte honoured again
On the verge of embarking on his new career as a trainer, 13-time champion jockey Douglas Whyte was given a “Lifetime Achievement Award” at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Whyte was honoured for his incredible career in the saddle, which saw him take out the jockeys’ championship from 2000-01 until 2012-13, collecting 1,813 winners in the process.
Whyte is only the third person to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award – and the first jockey – following trainers Ivan Allan (2004) and Kan (2003).