Horse Racing
Gold Cup an option for Zebrowski after G3 Centenary Vase triumph

By Declan Schuster
30/01/2022 20:15

Zebrowski (No. 10) captures the G3 Centenary Vase Handicap (1800m) under Matthew Poon.
Zebrowski (No. 10) captures the G3 Centenary Vase Handicap (1800m) under Matthew Poon.

Caspar Fownes is contemplating a G1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m) tilt with Zebrowski next month after the five-year-old toughed it out to claim this afternoon’s (Sunday, 30 January) G3 Centenary Vase Handicap (1800m) at Sha Tin.

“He’s stepping up to every task and sometimes you have to throw them in the deep end a little bit, out of their comfort zone rating-wise.

“If he ran in a Gold Cup he certainly wouldn’t be disgraced – he’d still be a first-four chance in my opinion because he’s such a good stayer. Most importantly, we will see how he pulls up because he’s a ‘jointy’ horse, he has his issues,” Fownes said.

Group 1-placed in the 2020 Australian Derby (2400m) at Randwick Racecourse in Sydney, Zebrowski has made a swift acclimatisation to Hong Kong; he’s now a two-time Group 3 winner from only eight starts in town after claiming the G3 January Cup Handicap (1800m) at Happy Valley earlier this month.

“Conghua certainly helps in preparation for his races so he’ll be going back there next week and then obviously if I’m happy with how he is, we’ll bring him back for the Gold Cup,” Fownes said.

The Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup forms a Group 1 double-header on Sunday, 20 February at Sha Tin along with the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m).

Zebrowski fights gamely under Matthew Poon.

Breaking cleanly from gate three under jockey Matthew Poon in the HK$3.7 million feature, Zebrowski – a son of Savabeel – settled third in the run before courageously denying Butterfield and Savvy Nine in a nail biting finish.

“He’s a tough bugger and it was a tough win. He’s improved – he keeps getting better. You can imagine him when he gets over further, he’ll be so much better because he’ll just keep on running – it’s exciting,” Fownes said.

“I said ‘look, it’s most important to jump well, you’ve got no weight’. The two leaders were going to be Ka Ying Star and Reliable Team, as it turned out, and I said ‘make sure you have him up there, he’s tough and he just keeps fighting’.

“I’m happy for the kid, you give him the opportunity and he’s got the job done,” Fownes said.

Getting the leg-up on the bay for the first time – Poon was equally pleased with his mount’s plucky performance.

“Big thanks to Caspar for giving me the ride. He was very tough, I thought he was going to stop but he fought back and I think he’s progressive – I think he can handle further as well,” Poon said.

The win was Poon’s second Centenary Vase in succession after Glorious Dragon’s victory last year.

Zebrowski is now a three-time winner in Hong Kong.
Zebrowski is now a three-time winner in Hong Kong.

“I drew a good draw. We knew we had two horses who would lead so Caspar called me this morning and just said to sit third or fourth. We did the plan and travelled nice in behind the pace and he just had the perfect run and carried a light weight,” Poon said.

The win was Poon’s 17th this season.

“I feel like he can handle a bit further as well and today he did a really good job with a light weight against some nice horses,” the 28-year-old said.

Fownes was pleased with the effort of stablemate Columbus County who finished an interrupted sixth under Vincent Ho.

“I’m very happy – he sort of got impeded at the 150 (metre mark), ran out of room, but he was strong through the line and he ran the way I wanted him to run.

“He’s on target to be very competitive in the Gold Cup, and certainly in the Champions & Chater Cup (G1, 2400m) will be where he’ll be at his best,” Fownes said.

Hong Kong racing continues this Thursday (3 February) at Sha Tin with the running of the Class 1 Chinese New Year Cup Handicap (1400m).