Big Me has a big future after his big win in the Class Four Chongqing Handicap (1,000m) at Sha Tin on Saturday, during which his full-time trainer, Caspar Fownes, had his heart in his mouth, but after which the part-time comedian had his tongue in his cheek.
A hype horse in not only Hong Kong but also his native Australia, where punters backed him heavily as soon as bookmakers quoted fixed odds, Big Me was last to start but first to finish, winning on Sha Tin’s five-furlong straight course in a manner few horses of any age – and even fewer debutants – do.
Big Me lost more than his one-and-a-quarter-length victory margin to his opponents in the seconds after the Sha Tin barriers opened, an inauspicious beginning that contributed to Fownes sweating buckets more than the 80 per cent humidity did.
But Fownes, whose Australian brother-in-law Clint Hutchison was one of the men who sourced Big Me at the Inglis 2020 Ready 2 Race Sale for A$75,000, was a cool customer by the time his highly touted newcomer hit the lead 150m out under Luke Currie.
“Of course he’s going to stay in Class Four. He can’t get any more than five points for that victory. He struggled to win by a length,” joked Fownes, much to the laughter of the press pack.
“To my dear friend, Nigel [Gray] the handicapper. The second horse [Flying High] was held up the whole way. He was very unlucky. He should probably have beaten my horse,” added Fownes before he left the assembled reporters to wipe tears from their eyes.
After receiving a debrief from Currie, who doubled his victory tally for the season when he saluted the judge aboard Big Me, Fownes suspended his stand-up shtick – temporarily – to speak seriously about a horse with whom he has shown admirable patience.
“He’s a nice horse. He’s always shown us he’s got some potential, and we hope he can keep improving,” four-time champion trainer Fownes said.
“We’ve taken our time with him. He had quite a few trials towards the end of last season. He finally decided to lose a bit of weight, but the tracks were getting chopped up, so I backed off, freshened him and prepared him for what he’s doing this season.
“The horse has never given any indication [of bad behaviour]. He’s been a thorough professional all the way through his prep. But, like anything, come race day, a couple of them got fidgety, he put his head down at the wrong time, the guy pressed the button and lo and behold, you lose your advantage.
“You’re worried because things can go horribly wrong from thereon, but Luke was patient, went to Plan B and the horse did his job,” Fownes added.
Big Me was the highlight of Saturday’s meeting for both Fownes and Currie, who teamed up in the Group Three National Day Cup (1,000m) over the same sprint trip as the Class Four Chongqing Handicap. Sky Field placed third behind Super Wealthy and Cordyceps Six.