He’s long been known as the “King of the Valley” and he has seven runners there on Wednesday night, but Caspar Fownes could be forgiven for having one eye on Sunday when he heads to the city circuit for the midweek meeting.
Fownes saddles up three runners in the final Group One of the season at Sha Tin this weekend, with Columbus County, Senor Toba and Zebrowski lining up in the Champions & Chater Cup (2,400m).
Fownes expects his trio to be competitive as he bids to add a first Champions & Chater Cup victory to his glittering CV and there’s one galloper he’s particularly excited about.
“There’s really not much between them. Senor Toba is the one where you just don’t know where his rating will get to,” he said.
Melbourne Cup contender? 🤔— World Horse Racing (@WHR) May 1, 2022
Bred and raced in Australia, could Senor Toba be a candidate for @FlemingtonVRC in November after taking the 2,400m Queen Mother Memorial Cup for Joao Moreira & Caspar Fownes? 🏆 🇦🇺
🎥 @HKJC_Racing pic.twitter.com/GqezehBb9v
“Senor Toba is a serious horse, he’s improving all the time and he could be anything in the next 12 months, he really could.
“But I’m happy with all of them, they’re in good nick. Columbus County and Zebrowski both trialled well the other day, so their fitness level is good and obviously they’re going to be competitive.”
Fownes predicts an even race, highlighting Douglas Whyte’s Gold Cup winner Russian Emperor as one of the key chances.
“I respect Russian Emperor but it’s going to be a good race, I don’t think anything is going to win by a big margin,” Fownes said.
🏆 Hong Kong Gold Cup (G1)— 𝙒𝙤𝙧𝙡𝙙𝙍𝙖𝙘𝙞𝙣𝙜 (@WorldRacing1) February 20, 2022
2000m, 12.000.000 HKD, for 5yo+
Russian Emperor (IRE)
(5G Galileo - Atlantic Jewel, by Fastnet Rock)
J : B. Shinn
T :D.J. Whyte
O : Mike Cheung Shun Ching
B : @coolmorestud
🥈Savvy Nine (Anodin)
🥉Golden Sixty (Medaglia D'oro) pic.twitter.com/DGUiEYMDOJ
“It’s going to be a hard-fought contest, unless it’s a wet track – that could change things.”
Joao Moreira will return from suspension to partner Senor Toba, while Matthew Chadwick jumps aboard Columbus County and Vincent Ho Chak-yiu rides Zebrowski in a race that also features defending champion Panfield and the veteran Ka Ying Star.
In the meantime, Fownes – who also saddles up his star sprinter Sky Field in the Group Three Sha Tin Vase (1,200m) on Sunday – has a considerable hand at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.
It’s been a long time between drinks for speedster Explosive Witness, who hasn’t won since taking out the Group Three Bauhinia Sprint Trophy (1,000m) at Sha Tin on New Year’s Day last year under a feather weight, but the seven-year-old does look like he’s getting closer to a win ahead of the Class Two Grass Island Handicap (1,200m).
Whether Explosive Witness can do it over six furlongs – a distance he’s never won at – and from gate 10 is questionable but in a race featuring Campione, Eason, Lucky With You and Voyage Warrior, he should at least get a speed willing enough to allow him to finish off strongly from back in the field.
After a disappointing showing at Sha Tin last start, Nicconi County returns to the course and distance of his debut victory in the Class Three Kau Sai Chau Handicap (1,200m) and he should get his chance to return to the winner’s list from gate four under Blake Shinn.
Rounding out Fownes’ midweek hand are Invincible Missile, Killer Instinct, Charming Steed, Fast Pace and Daily Beauty.