Reigning champion trainer Caspar Fownes put paid to a six-week drought at Happy Valley on Wednesday night, with Zebrowski producing a gutsy effort to break his Hong Kong maiden in the Class Two American Club Challenge Cup (1,800m).
Fownes had gone 61 runners without a winner heading into the midweek meeting – more than any other trainer – and that number had reached 65 before $3.50 favourite Zebrowski delivered the 54-year-old some welcome relief.
“That’s racing, you get used to that. I’ve been in the game long enough so I’ll just eat a bit of humble pie and we’ll eat the apple pie when the time comes,” the trainer said.
Runner-up in last year’s Group One Australian Derby (2,400m) at Randwick, Zebrowski has improved in each of his four Hong Kong starts and enjoyed his first trip to the city circuit.
Tough effort! Runner-up in the 2020 G1 Australian Derby, Zebrowksi gets off the mark in Hong Kong, taking the night's feature, the Class 2 American Club Challenge Cup under @Vincenthocy for Caspar Fownes. #HappyWednesday #HKracing pic.twitter.com/Kt9zXQQNPV— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) November 3, 2021
“I’m very happy to win on his fourth start in Hong Kong, he keeps progressing each run and I look forward to taking him back to Sha Tin next start and hopefully he will keep improving,” Fownes said.
“I’ve said it for a while, I think he’s the type of horse I’d be looking at the [Queen Mother Memorial Cup] at the end of the season, he handles all types of surface and 2,400m shouldn’t be an issue for him.
“He’s a horse that’s come here and seems to be adapting very nicely so we’re going to have some fun with him.”
It was an animated Fownes who urged Zebrowski and jockey Vincent Ho Chak-yiu on as they gradually wore down Savaquin in the home straight, nabbing John Size’s gelding in the final strides.
“He’s a nice horse and he showed a lot of fighting heart the last 75m. It was getting a bit ugly at the 500m there so Vincent decided to just come back off him and try to let the horse balance up again coming into the straight and ask for another effort. Lucky the horse was in good form and gave him that and I’m very happy to get the win,” Fownes said.
“I think that race was a pretty horribly run race but I’m glad my horse showed a lot of fighting heart to knuckle down and fight the last part and get the job done.”
After travelling one-out, one-back, Zebrowski was caught three-wide turning for home after the race changed complexion thanks to a mid-race move from Joao Moreira.
With Matthew Poon Ming-fai setting a pedestrian pace in the lead aboard All For St Paul’s, Moreira launched from the back half of the field aboard Savaquin to assume the lead 750m from home in what very nearly proved the winning move.
“He’s a good horse, it wasn’t a perfect ride, the pace was slow and I wanted to take off as well but Joao was faster. Obviously when he took off I was caught out three-wide but luckily with the light weight, he has a great heart and he made it,” Ho said.
“He’s still very immature mentally so I think he still has plenty to learn and improve, which is a good thing.
“When you’re three-wide you just have to keep him balanced and not rush anything, you just wait until the straight and hope for the best and Joao’s horse, perhaps the weight got him and we had an advantage on that.”
Moreira may have suffered defeat aboard Savaquin but the Brazilian did go home with a double after victories aboard Manfred Man Ka-leung’s Inno Legend and Romantic Combo for Danny Shum Chap-shing, a feat matched by Karis Teetan thanks to his wins aboard John Size’s A Smile Like Yours and Wood On Fire for Peter Ho Leung.