Champion trainer Caspar Fownes will find himself in illustrious company if Senor Toba or Rocket Spade can win the BMW Hong Kong Derby at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Since 1986 only the legendary John Moore has managed back-to-back Derby wins from the training fraternity, while a third success in the race after Super Satin in 2010 and Sky Darci last year would result in Fownes joining Brian Kan Ping-chee, John Moore, John Size and Ivan Allan as the only trainers since 1970 to claim the prestigious race three or more times.
Fownes, though, does not consider himself a Hong Kong training legend and is just focused on the next winner.
“I never look at things like that,” Fownes said. “I’m just a Hong Kong boy. I grew up here and I’m just happy to work hard and get good results.
“I’ve got a great client base, lovely friends, I’m training for good people and that’s what it’s all about. I’ve got a great family around me and I’m set and I’m happy. That’s everything to me.
“I’m just here to train as many winners as I can. The other night, apparently, I made history at Happy Valley.
“I’ve trained more winners there than anyone else in the history of Hong Kong racing. It was a big result. I only found out when I was called the next morning. That was a good moment.”
Fownes’ next winner could well be one of his biggest and Senor Toba is the most fancied of his two runners.
The flashy grey caught the eye staying on strongly to finish fifth after missing a beat at the start in the Classic Cup and Fownes will be applying headgear for the first time to sharpen up his star.
“He’s going to race in blinkers for the Derby,” Fownes said. “The other day in the trial, he was better out of the gates and we jumped him again on Thursday so he’ll start to get better.
“If he can just be that length and a half, two lengths closer without Joao having to really niggle him then we’re in business. Imagine if he’s sitting in fifth or sixth, they won’t be able to beat him in my opinion.”
Senor Toba is guaranteed to get the Derby trip and Fownes feels that he’s likely to be even better over further than 2,000m.
Senor Toba will ‘get to 120 points no problem’: Fownes
“He’s a very good stayer in the making and he’s going to eat up a lot further,” Fownes said. “He’s going to be a lovely 2,400m horse come December. I’m happy with his prep – he’s in good form, he looks beautiful. I was very pleased with his trial last week. He’ll be very competitive.”
New Zealand Derby winner Rocket Spade will also wear blinkers for the first time and gives Fownes a decent Derby second string, with the trainer admitting his blood will be pumping as his runners leave the stalls.
“I’m totally relaxed before the race,” Fownes said. “When the gates open is when you start to get the buzz, the bloody heart starts to pound away and it’s so exciting. It’s real enjoyment.
“It’s unfortunate we are in the situation we are but at least we’re racing. It’s such a shame as when the crowd is there – when people are roaring and getting into it – the excitement is there, but we’re lucky to be racing and I’m looking forward to it.
“There are a few we respect but I think the race is up for grabs and we’re definitely in with a chance.”