Group One contender Rise High has dethroned Hong Kong’s champion galloper Beauty Generation, putting to bed any concerns there may have been about his ability to perform at the top level.
Trainer Caspar Fownes has long spruiked the ability of his five-year-old and his opinion was franked on Sunday in the Group Two Sha Tin Trophy (1,600m) as Rise High bolted past Beauty Generation at the 150m mark.
The slashing victory sets the scene for a mouth-watering clash with champion stayer Exultant in next month’s Group Two Jockey Club Cup (2,000m).
While Fownes was in awe of Beauty Generation’s 10-win streak heading into the race, he believed a day would come where the champion eventually got beaten.
“How can you [think he was beatable]? He is such a superstar, a champion horse, but when I was walking in with the boys today, I said this is what racing is about, champions get beat and let’s hope we do it today,” he said.
“I have been saying it for a while now, I think Rise High is the next big thing in Hong Kong and he is slowly starting to get there.”
Fownes admits he was given an almighty fright when John Size’s Waikuku sneaked up inside his galloper and went toe-to-toe up the straight after they left Beauty Generation in their wake.
“He came out and it looked like Waikuku was really going to challenge us, which he did but we stuck our neck out at the last part,” he said.
“It was looking like a dream until Waikuku sneaked up the inside – the clacker got a little bit tight.”
Fownes was delighted for his former apprentice Vincent Ho Chak-yiu, who secured his biggest win in the race, expertly piloting Rise High off the rail and into clear running in the straight.
“It’s great for Vincent too, it is always hard when you are just below the top ranks, there are always big boys kicking up for the ride but the owners have been good, they’ve let me take my time with this horse which has made him, so it is great to see Vincent do that,” he said.
“Hopefully he will get the job done again [in November] and then again in December.”
Fownes now faces an agonising decision for Rise High, whether to push on in search of even more ground in the Group One Hong Kong Vase (2,400m) in December or settle for the Hong Kong Cup (2,000m) on the same day.
He said his decision was going to be heavily influenced by the European import’s performance against reigning Vase champion Exultant next month.
“He keeps improving, every season he is getting stronger, he has shown us that. He will climb up the ratings now, probably 128 or 129, so I am looking forward to seeing him when he gets over the right trip, it is exciting times ahead,” he said.
“Next start we are up against Exultant who has been a superstar stayer here, I think he will run before that so fitness-wise, we will be on the similar level and we should be able to see who is the better horse over 2,000m.
“He will be entered for the 2,000m and the 2,400m so we will have a look and make the decision after his next run.”
Fownes’ warhorse Southern Legend also managed to take home prize money from the race, holding on to finish fifth.