He may be the “King of the Valley” but championship-leading trainer Caspar Fownes has no hesitation taking his promising import Green Aeon to the wide expanses of Sha Tin on Sunday.
The five-year-old impressed last week, bolting in at Happy Valley in just his second Hong Kong start, but has now become a victim of the fixture with no Class Two 1,200m races at the city track until November, leaving Fownes short on options.
In his three starts in Australia, Green Aeon won over 1,200m and 1,400m but Fownes thinks he will benefit from more racing.
“It doesn’t matter where he is, he is a horse that needs more experience, he is only lightly raced,” he said. “He is green as grass because he has only had those few runs.
“We thought about it and there was no point putting him in the 1,000m at the Valley [on October 7], he is ready to go to 1,200m – even further if needed.”
While Joao Moreira rode Green Aeon at Happy Valley last week, Australian Blake Shinn takes the reins in the Class Two Hwamei Handicap (1,200m) with the Brazilian opting to partner Ricky Yiu Poon-fai’s Good Luck Friend.
The four-year-old won four from six starts last season and subsequently took out the Champion Griffin award with his rating soaring to 85.
Off to a flying start in 2020-21, Fownes will take seven runners to Sha Tin as he looks to extend his advantage at the top of the table.
With nine-and-a-half wins next to his name thanks to a dead-heat on Wednesday night, Fownes is on track to have his most prolific start to a season in 10 years.
Sunday looms as a huge day for Fownes, who will saddle up his warhorse Southern Legend for the 34th time.
The eight-year-old has shown no signs of slowing down, breaking his international Group One duck last season in the Champions Mile, and he is set for another campaign against Beauty Generation this term.
The Boniface Ho Ka-kui-owned galloper showed he still has it in a recent barrier trial, where he stalked Beauty Generation’s every move down the Sha Tin straight.
Shinn will again combine with Fownes, riding Southern Legend for the second time. After combining for one of the good news stories of last season, Fownes will again team up with popular jockey Keith Yeung Ming-lun on Dances With Dragon.
The handler transformed the former Peter Ho Leung-trained galloper into a Group-level performer and he steps out for the first time this season.
2⃣ Days ️ 2020/21 #SeasonOpener— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) September 4, 2020
What a battle this was last season... with Southern Legend just getting the better of Beauty Generation to give @Vincenthocy his first G1! #HKracing pic.twitter.com/WnkZ3OeZpH
Fownes and Yeung kicked off what they are hoping can be a big week with a win on Royal Racer at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.
“It was wonderful to bring someone like Keith on last year and to get his mojo back a bit with that win,” Fownes said.
“He is starting to fire up again now, look at his rides. Seven [on Wednesday], that’s all you can ask for because if you have a few rides you are going to snag one or two.”
Green Envy, Nunchucks, Champ Patrol and Aurora Pegasus will also race on the day for Fownes.