He could be excused for wanting to kick the proverbial cat after racking up 16 placings in the eight race meetings this season, but trainer Caspar Fownes believes he is close to a breakthrough.
The veteran trainer has more second-placed finishes (10) than anyone else and has found himself on the wrong side of too many photo finishes, but will look to retain his moniker as the “King of the Valley” on Wednesday night with six winning chances.
Leading the charge for Fownes is his unbeaten five-year-old Snap Fit, who steps up in grade for the first time in the Class Three Kyoto Handicap (1,000m) as he looks to build on his two winning starts from last season.
While unraced for four months, Fownes has elected to take him into this contest without a barrier trial, backing in the horse’s ability.
“I think when you go over 1,000m you don’t really need to give them a trial beforehand so let’s hope we have got it right,” he said.
After experiencing wind problems along with a leg issue early in his career, Fownes has been forced to nurture Snap Fit in his short career.
He now believes his best days are ahead of him after successful surgery to clear his airways over the off-season.
“He had a good prep up in China, he has been here with us for a couple of weeks and his work has been beautiful, we have taken him on the grass a couple of times so I am very happy with him,” he said.
“Everything is back on track now, with the roaring condition he had surgery and Dr Paul Robinson did a great job, he got the horse back and he is performing like he isn’t feeling any pain.
“He is a pretty straightforward horse, I really believe you will see the best of him once he steps up even further, 1,200m and even 1,400m but being fresh I had this race picked out for a while.
“Hopefully he can continue on and snag a few races for the stable this season.”
Champion jockey Zac Purton will ride Snap Fit from barrier five.
Fownes also brings his Happy Valley track record holder Green Luck back to the races in the Class Two Japan Racing Association Trophy (1,650m).
The one-time Classic Mile hope blitzed his rivals earlier this season under jockey Joao Moreira, storming home to set the fastest 1,650m time ever seen at Happy Valley but flopped one start later after being stepped up to 1,800m.
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Fownes said the 1,800m experiment had backfired in hindsight.
“It was a small field so I opted to take the chance at the 1,800m and it just didn’t work out like we thought it would,” he said.
“He should have run a bit better, if you look at the replay he probably runs a length or two closer with the right run but he has pulled up well and put on some body weight so we will take our chances again at 1,650m where he holds the course record.
“He just needs genuine speed, but that race looked void of pace the other day, it turned out to be a nightmare for us but it is back to the drawing board. He has got a good gate, Joao goes back on so the only problem is that he is carrying 132 pounds, so we are giving a bit of weight away to decent horses.”