On the cusp of becoming only the fourth Hong Kong trainer to reach 1,000 wins, Caspar Fownes is optimistic Sky Field can spearhead the stable’s FWD Champions Day onslaught by capping a string of consistent performances at elite level.
Fownes took his career tally of Hong Kong wins to 998 with Nearly Fine’s triumph at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (April 13), leaving the reigning champion trainer just two wins shy of joining John Moore (1,735), John Size (1,394) and Tony Cruz (1,391) as the only horsemen to reach four figures.
Fownes could annexe the 1000-win milestone at Sha Tin on Saturday (April 16), where he has seven runners, or next Wednesday (April 20) at Happy Valley, where he is already the most successful handler in history with 534 wins, shading John Moore (530) and George Moore (529).
A perennial presence at Hong Kong’s most prestigious meetings, Fownes hopes Sky Field can improve on last season’s third to Wellington in the Group 1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m) when he again contests the HKD$20 million feature on Sunday, April 24.
“He’s going well. He’s had a nice gallop today and he’ll have another gallop next week,” said Fownes, who twice previously claimed the premier autumn sprint with Lucky Nine (2013/14).
“I’ve freshened him up since his last run (fourth to Wellington in the Group 1 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup, 1400m, on February 20), trying to bring him as a fresh horse into this race and hopefully he gets a nice gate and he gives us a good run.
“He’s a very honest horse and looks to be going the right way.”
Sky Field claimed the Group 1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) on December 12 before finishing a head second to Stronger in the Group 1 Centenary Sprint Cup over the same course and distance on January 23.
Fownes will decide next week if stablemate Kurpany also tackles the Chairman’s Sprint Prize.
“He’s had a couple of runs and earned his shot there. We had to back him up the other day, which wasn’t ideal. We’ll see how he’s going next week and make a final decision whether we go for it or not. At this stage, he’s going to the race,” Fownes said.
Fownes is confident Zebrowski and Columbus County, who finished first and second in a 1600m trial at Conghua on Monday (April 11), can contend strongly in the Group 1 FWD QEII Cup (2000m), where the pair will be pitted against BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) winner Romantic Warrior and Group 1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m) victor Russian Emperor.
“Both horses trialled on Monday and trialled very well over a mile at Conghua. Zebrowski has won two Group 3s this year and deserves a shot at set weights. He’s freshened up nicely for the race and will be ridden by Vincent Ho,” Fownes said.
“Columbus County will be ridden by Joao Moreira. He’s a very honest horse and he always picks up prize money in the Group 1s, so we’d be expecting a big performance as well.
“We’re there to fight with Russian Emperor.”