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Caspar Fownes claims Hong Kong trainers’ crown

July 11, 2021, 4:07:17 PM

Caspar Fownes has won the 2020/21 Hong Kong trainers' championship from John Size after a thrilling final Sha Tin meeting of the season on Sunday (11 July) saw Fownes emerge with an insurmountable lead.

With only nine races remaining at Happy Valley's season finale on Wednesday night (14 July), Fownes leads 79-72, with 11-time trainer Size guaranteeing only three certain runners ahead of declarations on Monday (12 July), while Fownes has entries in all nine races.

Fownes, the champion trainer in 2006/07, 2008/09, and 2013/14, was overjoyed when Green Envy scored the stable's 79th win of the current season in the first phase of the Class 4 All You Wish Handicap (1400m), extending his lead over Size to nine victories.

“I suppose it's all over now because there aren't enough races; I'm nine races ahead with 14 to go. “I'm fairly safe,” he explained.

“I'm rather pleased. We worked really hard this year to get this achievement. I'm overjoyed for the entire squad. We've all put in a lot of effort, and it's been a fantastic challenge, a terrific struggle – and a lot of fun. It's thrilling.

“We had a really successful season, and the pressure has been on for the last several months.”

Size, who completed the game with a double on Sunday, acknowledged Fownes' great season.

“I have to be happy with it (the season); 72 wins is a fairly respectable total. “I'm satisfied with the outcome,” he added. “Every week, Caspar's horses go straight and true, and when you get up around 80, you deserve to win.”

With a seven-win cushion coming to Happy Valley on Wednesday night, Fownes, 53, feels the season's turning moment occurred on May 23, when Size raced to a six-win lead.

“When John got six ahead of me on the 23rd of May, it was going to be very difficult to come back and defeat him since he's such a tremendous trainer and champion through the years,” Fownes explained.

“When he won those early races in the day, he was six wins ahead, and I came back and won three races at the end of the day, he was three ahead.

“I enjoy fighting. I enjoy a good challenge, and I was there for it the entire season. It’s wonderful how it’s worked out. We've put in a lot of effort, and we have a lot of good horses in the stable.

I'm already looking forward to next season, but this has been a magical season.

“I knew I had a strong opportunity this year. We had the horses in excellent places, and they were in excellent condition.

“We had a lot of seconds, a lot of thirds, and now a lot of wins, so it was a fantastic season.”

Sky Darci's victory in the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) was Fownes' pinnacle of a comeback season.

Size reduced the gap to seven points on Sunday when Drops Of God won the Class 3 Pingwu Spark Handicap (1200m) and undefeated Blaze Warrior won the Class 3 Contentment Handicap (1400m), giving Joao Moreira a quartet – and his 1100th winner in Hong Kong.

“Nice horse (Drops Of God), gave me such an incredible sensation in the straight when I put him under strain. He was discovering more and more with each furlong. “This man has a great future here,” Moreira stated before congratulating him on his newest achievement.

“It has significance. I never imagined I'd get to this point when I first started out, but I was fortunate enough to get there, and I didn't get there alone.

“I received tremendous psychological support from my family. That's what it's all about, and I'm pleased I didn't disappoint them.”

In Hong Kong, Harry Bentley achieved his most significant victory when he steered Preciousship to a record-breaking victory in the Class 1 Sha Tin Mile Trophy Handicap for Ricky Yiu.

The son of Iffraaj ran 1m 32.24s to break retiring champion Beauty Generation's 1600m mark, surprising – but delighting – Yiu.

“I was taken aback, although the track condition was hard, yet the speed suited my horse. “This horse is half a class better since he was carrying a modest weight (116lb), and he is a small horse, but he has a tremendous heart,” Yiu added.

“The favorable draw, the pace, and the solid track all helped. Harry performed an excellent job. He's still developing, and next season he'll be an even better jockey.”

Bentley's fourth victory of the season came at an opportune moment for the young Briton.

“Obviously, I've been getting better horses and being more in the frame of late, which is wonderful. It's fantastic to be able to finish one of these events. “I had a couple of close calls in Class 2 that were a little annoying, but this makes up for it,” he added.

Lucky Patch, trained by Francis Lui, extended his record-breaking streak in the Class 1 Hong Kong Racehorse Owners Association Trophy Handicap (1200m).

The El Roca gelding ran 1m 07.61s, breaking Sacred Kingdom's Class 1 record of 1m 07.80s set in 2007.

Lui feels the four-year-old can go to a higher level of education.

“If he can develop, I believe he has the potential to be a Group horse.” We could race him in the Chief Executive's Cup on the first day,” he remarked.

Chad Schofield, who was previously sidelined with chickenpox, posted a double for Jimmy Ting on the David Hayes-trained Lucky With You and Gluck Racer.

Lucky With You, the winner of the first section of the Class 4 Entrapment Handicap, pleased Schofield (1200m).

“The margin was little, but it was softer than it appeared. “He showed his speed, went to the front, spit the bit out, and absolutely relaxed,” Schofield said.

“I kept him running between the 400m and the 200m since he was alone out in front and looked around, so it was simply a matter of keeping him going to the finish line. He's a lovely young horse.

“Fantastic Treasure is a five-out-of-five winner and a Class 2 winner — this guy only won a Class 4 but he's a very beautiful horse individually and I think you'll see a lot of him next season.”

Gluck Racer won the second part of the Class 4 Victory Marvel Handicap (1200m) for Ting, completing an early double following Alloy King's victory.

“It's wonderful to get a win (after the sickness), he's a good pick-up — first reserve and he got a run. I was supposed to ride him on Wednesday night, but he had a fantastic draw today and had the run of the race, winning really softly,” Schofield said.

The gathering began with a series of drought-breaking performances.

Antoine Hamelin and Ting teamed up to carry Alloy King to victory in the Class 5 Mr Award Handicap (1200m), the Zoffany gelding's first win at his 16th appearance, before Karis Teetan and Yiu delivered Super Mission in the second division of the Class 4 Big Profit Handicap (1400m). Super Mission has been placed in four of his previous ten appearances by Super Easy.

Chris So and Vincent Ho carried on the trend in the Class 5 Medic Kingdom Handicap (1400m), where Jiangxi Stamina won on his 12th start.

Ho leads Chau 59-57 in the Tony Cruz Award competition, which is given to Hong Kong's best home-grown rider.

Hong Kong racing resumes on Wednesday with the season finale at Happy Valley (14 July).