Championship-leading trainer Caspar Fownes is looking to put a difficult month – which has seen him lose his highest-rated horse Rise High to another tendon injury and top four-year-old Enrich Delight euthanised – behind him on Sunday when he saddles up runners in each of the three feature races at Sha Tin.
The happy-go-lucky trainer admits he has had the spring taken out of his step of late after moving heaven and earth to get the promising Rise High back to the races, only to have it go up in smoke one run into his return.
The seven-year-old was considered a genuine threat to Golden Sixty in Sunday’s Group One Gold Cup (2,000m), but Fownes will instead only saddle up stablemate Columbus County in the contest.
“I was gutted, the last few weeks have been so tough on me,” he said.
“We put so much effort into Rise High and he was back and ready to roll. He would have given that Gold Cup a shake, especially coming off that first-up run with 400 days off.
“Obviously, losing Chenier [Enrich Delight] earlier as well, it has been a tough few weeks.
“It is the tough part of our game so hopefully we can snap back and win a couple of big races and soldier on.”
Fownes will saddle up stable veteran Southern Legend in his 15th Group One on Sunday in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1,400m) where he will look for a change of fortunes among his top-rated gallopers.
The eight-year-old pipped Beauty Generation in last season’s Champions Mile to grab his first Group One victory and a second is ripe for the picking with one of the weakest fields in recent history lining up in what is the only top-level 1,400m race of the season.
Fownes revealed retirement talks were put on hold last season for Southern Legend and the handler sees no reason he cannot continue on his merry way while he continues to drink from the fountain of youth.
“He is bloody well, he’s ready to rock 'n' roll after his little freshen-up in China, it has done him the world of good,” he said. “He’s an eight-year-old, almost nine but he doesn’t realise it.
“The different environment up there is a godsend for horses like him.
“I have trained a lot of tough horses and he is one of them, he is one tough boy who loves to race.
“I will really miss him when we retire him. The owner asked me last year if we should retire him and I said to wait because I thought he still had a big one in him.
“Then we went on to win the big race [Champions Mile], so as long as he is enjoying it and giving it us his best, we will keep him going. The moment it stops, of course we will retire him.”
Top-rated four-year-old Sky Darci returns in the Classic Cup (1,800m) where Fownes is hoping to put a disappointing Classic Mile run in the past.
The 103-rater will again be ridden by Joao Moreira in a field which features the likes of Excellent Proposal, Lucky Express and Tourbillon Diamond.