Caspar Fownes has urged caution with red-hot Hong Kong Sprint favourite Classique Legend, saying the Everest winner has come to him at the end of a long preparation.
The popular grey trialled at Sha Tin on Tuesday for the first time, passing a Jockey Club rule which requires each horse to trial before racing.
Working under jockey Vincent Ho Chak-yiu, Classique Legend was slow away before moving through his gears and chasing home stablemate Sky Field, leaving Fownes to label his effort “acceptable”.
“The trial was all right, obviously he is a bit rusty and he hasn’t had an ideal prep, which I have been saying,” he said.
“I am doing the best I possibly can considering the time frame I have got. The trial was acceptable, it was probably the first time he’s been down the straight anyway, he picked up nicely and did his job.
“It looked like from the 100m to the [winning] post that he would put them away, but he sort of ground away a little bit instead. Obviously his fitness will improve a bit from that so I wouldn’t take too much from a trial in the morning compared to race day around the turn.”
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After winning the Everest in Australia before making the move to Hong Kong, many expect the five-year-old to roll into town and blow away his rivals in the Group One sprint feature later this month, but Fownes has consistently maintained he is racing the clock to get him right in time.
“Everything has been a rush so it hasn’t been ideal,” he said. “I know everyone is watching from around the world and they think it’s easy.
First look at the Sha Tin turf for Classique Legend (@Vincenthocy). #HKracing pic.twitter.com/osI2WeCcXa— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) December 1, 2020
“It doesn’t work like that, he’s had a vaccination, he’s been sedated for freeze branding, he had only been cantering in Werribee before he came here, we took no chances with him.
“All excuses aside, if he is at his best, even if I present him at 85 to 90 per cent [fit], he should be good enough on what he’s doing.
“Like anything, you have to hope they come here and adapt as soon as possible. It is a bit of a juggling act, you have got to hope on the day he does what’s required.
“Long term, once he’s settled into Hong Kong, I can get to know him better and train him accordingly.”
With a huge future beckoning for Classique Legend and global sprint races on the agenda, Fownes hinted he would not be afraid to abort the Hong Kong Sprint in two weeks time if he was not in the condition to compete at the highest level.
“My main thing now is to go back and see how he pulls up and make sure he’s comfortable,” he said.
“I am still learning about the horse, he has come to me at the end of his prep, they built him up for the big swansong and they got the job done so I have to try and pinch one more race before I freshen him up.
“I will always do the right thing. If I am not happy, the horse always comes first. The owner is very good, so I will be speaking to him but at this stage it is all systems go.”
Meanwhile, Ho is waiting in the wings for the ride with connections sweating on Kerrin McEvoy’s availability.
The Australian star has first refusal on the ride and is currently weighing up his options which would likely see him forced into two weeks of hotel quarantine over the Christmas period upon his return to Sydney.