Caspar Fownes is gearing up for another crack at Group One glory in the United Arab Emirates, with the trainer setting Sunday’s Group Three Bauhinia Sprint Trophy (1,000m) top weight Sky Field for the Al Quoz Sprint (1,200m) on Dubai World Cup Night.
A regular visitor to the UAE, Fownes has saddled 10 runners in Emirati races – seven of them at Group One level – including Lucky Nine in the 2012 and 2015 Dubai Golden Shaheens (1,200m), Gun Pit in the 2016 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 (2,000m) and Southern Legend in the 2019 Dubai Turf (1,800m).
“I’ve run second twice. I’ve run third a couple of times. I haven’t won one yet, but you get the horses there, and you try to make some stake money for the clients. Everyone has a trip away. It’s good,” said Fownes, who hopes Group One victor Sky Field could blossom into a major contender for March 25’s Al Quoz Sprint, the honour roll for which features two Hong Kong horses.
Joy And Fun, trained by Derek Cruz and ridden by Brett Doyle, won the 2010 Al Quoz Sprint when it was a Group Three event contested over 1,200m. Amber Sky, trained by Ricky Yiu Poon-fai and ridden by Joao Moreira, won the 2014 Al Quoz Sprint when it was a Group One event contested over 1,000m.
“The 1,000m is a little bit sharp for him, but he’s going to run well. He’s always run well down the straight,” said Fownes of Sky Field.
“It’s in preparation for him to go to Dubai for the straight six. That’s the plan. He’ll eat that up, that extra furlong. He’s always run well over 1,000m, but an extra 200m will be awesome.”
Fownes, who prepared Explosive Witness to win the 2021 Bauhinia Sprint Trophy under Alexis Badel, intends to run Sky Field in Sunday’s 1,000m dash and next month’s Group One Centenary Sprint Cup (1,200m) before sending him to the UAE.
Hugh Bowman will partner Sky Field for the first time and the duo will jump from barrier six.
The Bauhinia Sprint Trophy has attracted a capacity field of 14 runners, of whom the top seven in the weights took part in the Group One Hong Kong Sprint (1,200m) four weeks ago – Sight Success (second), Sky Field (third), Courier Wonder (fourth), Cordyceps Six (seventh), Super Wealthy (eighth), Stronger (ninth) and Duke Wai (11th).
Sight Success has drawn the most favourable gate 14 for the Bauhinia Sprint Trophy, but the John Size-trained galloper has not won a Group race in his 22-start career, and his jockey, Vagner Borges, has only one Hong Kong black type victory on his resume.
Arguably the pick of the Bauhinia Sprint Trophy handicap is Cordyceps Six, who meets all bar one of his fellow Hong Kong Sprint competitors better at the weights, but the barrier gods have been unkind to Richard Gibson’s straight specialist again.
For the second time this term, Cordyceps Six will start a straight race from the least favourable gate one, and he had to contend with barrier 13 in the Hong Kong Sprint on the round course last month. He is one of Badel’s five rides as the French jockey returns after spending seven weeks recovering from the injuries he sustained when he fell from ill-fated Fantastic Way on November 20.
Also among the Bauhinia Sprint Trophy entries on an 11-race Sha Tin card that is likely to shape the Classic Series plans of many horses, trainers and jockeys is last year’s triumphant odds-on favourite, Master Eight, whom Karis Teetan will steer from gate eight.