They watched as Golden Sixty used the race to springboard to Classic Series glory a year ago and now Caspar Fownes and Frankie Lor Fu-chuen are looking to launch their own stars in the Group Three Chinese Club Challenge Cup (1,400m) at Sha Tin on Friday.
The handlers occupy the first two spots in the trainers’ championship as the Hong Kong racing season heads into 2021 and they are primed to have a big say in the HK$3.5 million contest with a pair of lightweight hopes.
While both Winning Dreamer (Lor) and Sky Darci (Fownes) find themselves out of the handicap, they are not outclassed and Fownes wants to test his emerging type against the best.
He is under no illusions about the task at hand but knows a big showing in the race, which also features the like of Group One performers Ka Ying Star, Mighty Giant and Fat Turtle, can lay a marker for bigger and better things.
“I think you’ll see something quite good come out of this race,” he said. “You have things like Winning Dreamer – he is unbeaten – and then there is Mighty Giant who has won over 1,600m and 1,400m and who Ricky Yiu [Poon-fai] thinks is a Group One horse.
“I wouldn’t write off Fat Turtle either, he hasn’t been beaten far in his last two runs.”
Winning three from three this season, Sky Darci has emerged as one of the prime Classic Series candidates and Fownes is excited to again test his four-year-old against seasoned horses to get a further guide of his ability.
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
The son of Darci Brahma was impressive while winning the Class One Chevalier Cup (1,600m) in November and the handler sees no reason he wouldn’t be able to handle a drop back in trip.
“It is going to be tough in such a small field, but there are horses with quite a bit of potential,” he said.
“He has got a soft gate [one] which will help him no doubt, along with the light weight. He is very honest but it is a race full of horses who are honest and have a lot of potential as well.
“[Sky Darci] was good [last start], he got held-up at a crucial stage but he overcame that and he did his job nicely on the line so he is proving to be a progressive horse.”
Since the race became a 1,400m contest in 2004, just four horses have carried more than 122 pounds to win.
With Ka Ying Star’s 124 rating looming large over the field, the remaining seven horses get in with 121 pounds or less, placing them right in the sweet spot to be there when the whips are cracking.
“It is a good race for us to take a chance at,” Fownes said. “The horse is fit and well and he will get his chance.”
Sky Darci is likely to join stablemate Enrich Delight in the Classic Mile as Fownes attempts to prime his duo to be peaking on the right day.
Enrich Delight is set to run over 1,400m on January 10 after being scratched last due to lameness in a front leg.
The four-year-old – formerly Chenier in Australia – impressed on debut in November when he bolted up despite being caught in traffic for much of the straight.