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The Rock for Schofield as Fownes readies nine for the Valley

June 22, 2021, 12:31:08 PM

Caspar Fownes, who starred with five victories from 12 runners and a clean sweep of both G3s on Sunday afternoon (20 June) at Sha Tin, is seeking to deliver another punch in the championship fight as he prepares a squad of nine for Happy Valley's midweek game on Wednesday night (23 June).

Fownes leads this year's title race by seven victories over 11-time champion John Size with only seven race meetings remaining; the score is 74-67.

Green Luck (128lb) and The Rock (130lb) are among Fownes' declarations, and both will compete in the main event, the HK$2.2 million Class 2 Bowen Handicap (1650m).

Starting from gate three, The Rock hopes to build on his spectacular all-the-way victory earlier this month at Sha Tin, where he overcame barrier 14 to win by a comfortable two lengths under rider Chad Schofield.

“On paper, there didn't appear to be much speed, and with a lengthy run to the first turn, we felt we could overcome the draw by gradually getting over.

“We were left alone in front, and I was able to dictate beautifully, and to the horse's credit, he showed a good burst of speed when I did hit the button - it was a solid win,” Schofield explained.

The Dutch Art gelding, a three-time winner from 13 starts in Hong Kong, made a good first-up performance this term in Class 3, before adding two more wins to raise his rating to an imposing 97, firmly established in Class 2.

“He's a huge free-rolling horse, and you don't want to ride him too slowly; he has a wonderful big movement that he wants to utilize, so you don't want to limit him too much.

“He was really comfortable in front, traveling nicely, and when I let him go, he found a decent deal of acceleration,” Schofield explained.

The chestnut galloper stretched his legs over 1200m on the dirt track at Sha Tin yesterday (Monday, 21 June), clocking 1m 26.7s (29.9, 29.9, 26.9) during the gallop.

“I think so (that he will win at Happy Valley), he's racing in career-best form, he's had a fantastic season, he's coming off a victory, his confidence is high, he has a great draw and he should run well,” Schofield said.

Glorious Artist (133lb), California Rad (127lb), Savaquin (126lb), Solar Wai Wai (126lb), Highland Fortune (116lb), Holy Heart (116lb), and Magnificent (116lb) are all scheduled to compete in tomorrow night's main race.

“We'll see how he jumps, we have excellent early speed but clearly Magnificent is a high rolling horse himself, we have the inside draw so we'll just assess the situation when the gates open, but The Rock has proved he's adaptable enough to sit,” Schofield, 27, said.

Fownes will also saddle Jazz Steed, Wonder Brahma, Whiskey Neat, Fast Pace, Green Aeon, Sky Show, and Amazing News on the card.

Despite just passing 200 career Hong Kong victories and forming an enviable combination with the brilliant Fantastic Treasure this season, Schofield is already looking ahead to next season as he prepares for his eighth season in Hong Kong.

“I am delighted with another season; it has been a tough season for me this year, but maybe I can rebound next season and get some more support and winners,” Schofield said.

Schofield received a new full-season license on Monday (7 June) and is keen to improve on his personal high of 43 victories last season.

“You always want to improve on the prior one, and this one has been below standard in comparison to my previous five seasons in Hong Kong, so maybe we can lift the bar back up to where it needs to be.

“Injuries haven't helped, but I believe it comes down to a lack of support,” Schofield said. “I've got some very great young horses coming through, like Fantastic Treasure, who I hope can win some nice races next season.”

Fantastic Treasure is undefeated in five runs in Hong Kong, each time with Schofield in the plate, winning in Class 4, Class 3, and Class 2, bolstering his credentials as a significant player in the Four-Year-Old Classic Series next season.

“Hopefully, we can finish well and get some momentum heading into next season, but there's a lot to look forward to,” Schofield said.

Schofield has 203 victories in Hong Kong, including a Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) victory aboard Singapore Sling in 2018, a 2019 G2 Sprint Cup (1200m) victory aboard Rattan, and a G3 Lion Rock Trophy Handicap (1600m) victory aboard Ka Ying Star last season.

The opening portion of the Class 4 Middle Gap Handicap begins off Wednesday's nine-race card at 6.45 p.m. at Happy Valley (1200m).