Caspar Fownes wrapped up November’s action at Happy Valley Racecourse with a rousing hat-trick on Wednesday (29 November) night that lifted an otherwise dismal month for the handler.
“I never panic,” the three-time champion trainer said. “I’ve been here long enough and everyone else is panicking, but not me. But, at the same time, you like to get the winners rolling.”
When Premium Champion snatched race three with a timely nod of his chestnut head, it gave Fownes only his second win this month. He snared the evening’s fourth contest with Haymaker, and by the time Cheerfuljet took race five easing down, Fownes had rediscovered his swagger.
“Hong Kong’s a funny place – everyone judges you on how you are performing currently. What you’ve done in the past is forgotten, but we’ve given everyone a little reminder tonight that the Fownes stable is alive and well,” he said.
Zac Purton guided Cheerfuljet (122lb) to a smooth maiden win at start five in the second section of the Class 4 Kowloon City Handicap (1200m). The Darci Brahma four-year-old was an easy two and a half lengths clear of runner-up Starlot (122lb) passing the winning arch.
“He’s another nice young horse,” Fownes said. “He’s just a little bit immature and he’s needed to learn how to race the right way. He’s got good gate speed and gives himself a chance to get into the race; the third horse, Peace On Earth (109lb), went out quickly in front, we sat behind it and it was a nice, strong effort to go past him.
“He’s the sort of horse that can go on and win a few races for us this season.”
That win followed Haymaker’s three-quarter-length score at odds of 9/1 under Vincent Ho in the Class 5 San Po Kong Handicap (1200m). The result sealed a double for the rider, who earlier stole a march in the 1650m Class 5 opener atop Francis Lui’s 22-rated Golden Cannon, a 12/1 shot.
Ho, like his old boss, has endured a lean November, his most recent score before tonight being aboard Dr Win Win at the Valley on 25 October.
“It’s good for Vincent, he always puts the work in; he comes to stables and rides out in the mornings,” Fownes said.
“Haymaker is a horse that’s been a little unlucky this season, he’s drawn bad gates and the like, and he was very deserving of a win.”
Also deserving of victory was Fownes’ Premium Champion (126lb). The Norse Dancer six-year-old produced a relentless, grinding drive under Joao Moreira to collar runner-up Rule Thee (133lb) at the wire. The nose verdict gave the 7.9 chance a second career success over the Valley’s 2200m.
“That was a good ride from Joao, the run has just kept coming for him,” Fownes said. “There are many times that I’ve been beaten by a tiny margin so it’s nice when one goes your way.”
Another protagonist striking a timely victory was Olivier Doleuze. The veteran French ace teamed with the John Size-trained Perpetual Joyance, a 14/1 shot in race six, section two of the Class 3 Ho Man Tin Handicap (1200m). That triumph ended a winless streak for Doleuze that stretched back to his score aboard Jumbo Happiness at the city track on 5 October.
Matthew Chadwick backed-up a win at Sha Tin on Sunday with victory atop the Tony Cruz-trained California Fortune, a 4.2 chance, in the penultimate race, section one of the Class 3Ho Man Tin Handicap (1200m).
Chad Schofield punched home the Benno Yung-trained Numero Uno, returned at 7.1, in the night’s second event, a Class 4 over 1200m. And Neil Callan galvanised the Richard Gibson-trained King Of Mongolia to a tough win in the finale, the Class 3 Hung Hom Handicap (1800m).
Hong Kong racing resumes at Sha Tin Racecourse on Sunday, 3 December.