Happy-go-lucky trainer Caspar Fownes has lowered the colours of both Hong Kong champions Beauty Generation and Exultant in the space of a fortnight.
Fownes’ Southern Legend broke his 18-month run of outs in Hong Kong in the best possible way on Sunday, grinding his way up the straight to win the Group Three Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse (1,800m).
While the seven-year-old is a two-time Group One winner in Singapore’s Kranji Mile, Southern Legend had not greeted the judge at Sha Tin since March 2018 in Class One company.
The ultra-consistent galloper was given a perfect ride by in-form jockey Alberto Sanna, who secured his biggest race win in Hong Kong at the same time.
Sanna endured a torrid time of it last season with a string of serious injuries, but is now enjoying a golden run in the saddle.
“It was great for Alberto to ride his first winner for me because he has done so well with all the accidents he’s been through, no one has been through more than him,” Fownes told the Post from Melbourne, where he is scouting horses at the spring carnival.
“It is hard in Hong Kong, everyone wants to put the two big boys [Zac Purton and Joao Moreira] on but I wanted Alberto on the horse. He did nothing wrong leading into this race and the owner was on board too and we got the result so he will maintain the ride for the next couple of big ones.”
Sanna secured a position on the back of leader Time Warp shortly after settling and was able to peel out in the straight, grabbing the two-time Group One winner in the shadows of the post.
Hong Kong’s top stayer Exultant rattled home for an eye-catching third in a race where he was forced to carry the top weight of 133 pounds.
“I spoke to Alberto in-depth this morning and we went through the race – we thought there were going to be quite a few backmarkers so let’s just get our position,” Fownes said.
“I felt Time Warp was a threat this race because he had been working and trialling very well, it looked like he had his mojo back.
“He still had the stick in the left hand, he didn’t pull it through until the last 75-odd metres and that was the deciding factor.”
Sanna said he had grown fond of Southern Legend, saying he admired his hard-working qualities.
“Southern Legend is a lovely horse. I started to know him in the last two starts. The barrier was a bit awkward but we got a good jump and were able to take up a good position with cover in transit with cover. Everything worked out well,” he said.
Southern Legend’s win comes two weeks after the Fownes-trained Rise High caused shock waves when he breezed past Hong Kong superstar Beauty Generation, halting his winning streak at 10.
With the pair heading towards December’s Longines Hong Kong International Races, Fownes now faces a juggling act when it comes to placing them in their respective races.
“They are my two best horses, we couldn’t be happier going into the internationals, let’s hope they pull up sound, I will have to have a look then make some decisions heading into December,” Fownes said.
Exultant’s trainer Tony Cruz said he was happy with the effort of his multiple Group One winner.
“Zac was very happy with the run, he said Exultant is in really great shape and if the race was a little bit longer he would’ve caught them,” he said.
“I’m thinking about the next race now, I think he’ll be ready for the Jockey Club Cup.”