Caspar Fownes has made the final Group-racing day of the Hong Kong season his own in recent years and he chases a fourth consecutive Group Three Premier Plate (1,800m), but he will do so a soldier down after the retirement of Zebrowski this week.

The galloper impressed with consecutive Group Three victories over 1,800m earlier this campaign and would have been one of the leading hopes for Sunday’s contest if fighting fit, but Fownes confirmed that niggling injuries finally got the better of the five-year-old.

“He was all right, he was going to have a surgery to remove a chip in his fetlock joint and the owners just thought it was not worth it. To spend four or five months off and come back against that level, they thought it would be too tough so they’ve opted to retire him,” said Fownes, suggesting there is a chance Zebrowski continues his career in Australia, where he finished second in the Group One Australia Derby in 2020.

“Going back over there, the joint might settle down in a few months, and I would say he’d be fine to race back in Australia.

“He was all right to race here, he was just constantly that one out of five off in his action, which is just irritating the joint.

“We did an MRI and felt it was time to do the surgery but the owners didn’t want to do the surgery because of the time and the level the horse is at. I can understand that.”

That leaves just Columbus County to represent Fownes in the Premier Plate as the trainer attempts to follow up the victories of Rise High (2019), Dances With Dragon (2020) and Southern Legend last year.

Like Zebrowski, Columbus County’s last run came in the Group One Champions & Chater Cup (2,400m) on May 22 and Fownes is confident the six-year-old will handle the step back to the distance his two Hong Kong victories have come at.

Columbus County gallops on Thursday.

“The horse is well, obviously he’s come back in distance but he’s a versatile horse and he went enormous first-up this season over a mile, so we know he can perform well at 1,800m as well. He’s got a nice draw in barrier five and he should run accordingly,” Fownes said.

Columbus County takes on the likes of Ka Ying Star, Tourbillon Diamond and Excellent Proposal as he bids to continue Fownes’ dominance in the race.

Fownes also took out the other Group Three race on the card last year, winning the Premier Cup (1,400m) with Sky Field, but he does not have a runner in Sunday’s edition, which sees Group One winner Stronger take on Lucky Patch, Beauty Joy and Cheerful Days, among others.

Fownes also saddles up Sky Gem, Kokushi Musou, Over The Moon, Jumbo Fortune and Nearly Fine as he attempts to add to his 38 winners for far in season 2021-22.

Jockey Vagner Borges.

Meanwhile, Vagner Borges has been stood down from his rides at Sha Tin on Sunday due to being a close contact of a person who tested positive to Covid-19, believed to be his daughter.

Borges has been replaced by Harry Bentley on Happy Fat Cat, Ruan Maia on Turquoise Alpha and Alex Lai Hoi-wing aboard Right Honourable and Handsome Guys.

Borges, who will also be unavailable for Wednesday night’s Happy Valley meeting, tested negative on Friday.