The Classic Mile cannot come quick enough for Caspar Fownes after the red-hot trainer landed a one-two punch with a pair of impressive four-year-olds at Sha Tin on Sunday.
After Sky Darci saluted in the Class One Chevalier Cup (1,600m), former Godolphin-owned galloper Enrich Delight – who raced as Chenier in Australia – snared the Class Two Chevalier Property Investment Handicap (1,400m) on his Hong Kong debut.
“There are not many that excite me but he’s exciting,” Fownes said of Enrich Delight, who ran fourth in the Group One Australian Guineas (1,600m) at Flemington in February. “I told Joao [Moreira] a while back that I think this horse can be pretty special.
“I’m not riding them but I can get a good feel for horses from training good horses over the years. I said to him ‘this is the one you want to be riding’.”
After travelling just behind midfield, Moreira was met with a wall of horses in the home straight and was only able to let down properly in the final 150m.
“If he had got clear he would have just won in a canter,” said Fownes, who now has 30 winners for the season. “As long as he pulls up well and eats up – he’s a little bit of a finicky eater – so if he gets back on his grub by the end of the week he’ll run on international day over a mile.”
Moreira was also aboard Sky Darci, who handled the step-up from Class Three to Class One with aplomb to show he will also be a force in next year’s four-year-old series, which kicks off with the Classic Mile on January 24.
Fownes has long touted the son of Darci Brahma as a perfect Classic Mile horse and the gelding didn’t disappoint in his first assignment over 1,600m, edging out fellow four-year-old Lucky Express to ring up a hat-trick of wins.
“It is pretty tough to go from a Class Three straight to a Class One but I just felt we had the right horse to give us a chance to do it,” Fownes said.
Class 3 to Class 1? 1200 to 1600m?— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) November 29, 2020
No problems for Sky Darci who stamps himself as a leading Four-Year-Old Classic Series contender with a thrilling Chevalier Cup victory! #HKracing pic.twitter.com/RKy19RI41S
“Up in class, down in weight and a horse that was in really top form – you’ve got to take a chance, especially since it’s his four-year-old season.
“You hope they’re good enough to mix it with those types of horses and now he’s proven that he can, so he’s certainly earned his way into the four-year-old series.”
After consecutive wins over six furlongs at Happy Valley, Sky Darci relished his return to Sha Tin in a performance that gave Fownes confidence the 2,000m of March’s Hong Kong Derby is not out of the question.
After a cosy run along the rail a couple of lengths behind leader Kings Shield, Sky Darci found himself boxed in entering the home straight.
He had work to do when the run came about 300m out but he dug deep to grab Buddies and Lucky Express in the final strides and salute by a neck.
“He was held-up at the crucial part of the race when everything’s got momentum, it’s tough to do what he did today. It was gutsy, he did it because he wants to do it and he’s got a bit of spunk about him,” Fownes said.
“I didn’t think [1,600m] was going to be a problem, I felt the horse has got it well within his compass to go the mile and even further is OK because what he was doing at Happy Valley, he was just doing on his raw ability.”