He halted Beauty Generation’s famous winning streak at 10 and now Caspar Fownes is looking to end Golden Sixty’s 11-win tear with the same horse.
With Beauty Generation seemingly invincible at the time, Fownes caused an upset of epic proportions when his rising star Rise High toppled the champ in the Group Two Sha Tin Trophy (1,600m) in 2019, stunning punters.
He backed it up five months later when Southern Legend nosed out Beauty Generation in the Group One Champions Mile, all but bringing the curtain down on his reign as Hong Kong’s best horse in the process.
The championship-leading trainer brings Rise High back to the races for the first time in 13 months after suffering a devastating tendon injury last season, just as he looked set to shine.
Returning in the Group One Stewards’ Cup (1,600m) on Sunday, Fownes said he is excited by the prospect of taking on the new sensation Golden Sixty, but is not daunted by the task at hand.
“We have [caused an upset] a few times already in the last few years, I always believe anything is possible,” he said. “I’m never afraid of one horse because they can always have an off day.”
Ironically, Golden Sixty’s jockey Vincent Ho Chak-yiu was in the saddle for both Rise High and Southern Legend’s upset victories and now Christophe Soumillon takes the reins as Fownes attempts to do the same to his former apprentice.
Now a seven-year-old, Rise High is the forgotten horse in Hong Kong racing, with his rating of 127 only eclipsed by Group One-winning stars Golden Sixty and Exultant.
It marks a huge day for Fownes who will also saddle up two of the leading hopes in the Classic Mile in Sky Darci and Enrich Delight along with Southern Legend in the Stewards’ Cup alongside Rise High.
“Hopefully we can snag the Classic Mile and then you never know in the Stewards’ Cup, we could cause an upset against the champ,” he laughed. “It’s a big weekend, it’s always great to have some in there – especially when they are chances.”
While he boasts the third-highest rating in Hong Kong, Rise High is yet to capture an elusive Group One.
Fownes admits Sunday’s challenge may come too quickly, but he flagged the Group One Hong Kong Gold Cup (2,000m) next month as his prime target.
“I am looking forward to it, he is a great horse,” Fownes said. “He is first-up in 13 months which is a big task, I just want him to go there and relax and hit the line like a good horse.
“He has had a couple of trials so he will be better for the race, he has had a great preparation leading into it all.
“Everyone knows what I think of the horse, I just hope he pulls up well so we can go to the Gold Cup and have no setbacks so we might have a horse that can be very competitive for a year and a half.
“It was always the plan to try and get him to this race, ideally one more trial would have been beautiful – I would have been saying he is a chance to win the thing if we got an extra one in.”
With a two-pronged attack, Fownes is looking to win the Stewards’ Cup for the first time in his career.