With a month of bad luck behind him, Caspar Fownes is just happy to still be a leading contender in the race for the trainers’ championship with 11 of Hong Kong’s 12 Group Ones now in the rear-vision mirror.
After winning the Derby in March with Sky Darci, Fownes went winless until Sunday before landing a double with Hall Of Champ and Serious Liaison at Sha Tin, putting him back in the fold.
Remarkably, he only trails premiership leader John Size by three, a margin Fownes thought would be much wider after Sunday.
“It is a handicap system so you need luck, you need the good rides, you need the draw – everything is playing a part, as we saw on Sunday. I thought John would have at least four, maybe five winners and then he has two and we come out of the meeting level so I was very, very happy,” he said.
“That’s what our game is, it’s exciting because you don’t know what is going to happen. At the end of the day we are dealing with horses and s*** happens.”
After flying out of the gates, Fownes has come back to the field with 56 winners while the likes of Francis Lui Kin-wai (51), Frankie Lor Fu-chuen (50) and Danny Shum Chap-shing (50) do the chasing.
With a stable full to the brim, Fownes says he has the ammunition to push for a title, but he is wary of what Size has left too.
“I have been giving it my all, I have been having a frustrating run as we all know,” he said. “Hopefully we can turn it around and get the winners going because it looks like John has a heap to come too.
“Then we have Frankie, Danny and Francis right up our clacker so it is game on, everyone is producing the winners and it is a case of who can sustain the run. “I have had my run of bad luck so hopefully it has turned now and I can go back to where I was before, there is no reason I can’t do it because the horses are looking a treat and I am very happy with them.”
Fownes takes the promising Brilliant Fortune to Happy Valley for the first time on Wednesday night in the Class Three Babington Handicap (1,000m), where he looks to go one better than his two second placings.
The four-year-old performed well down the straight at Sha Tin but has run into a red-hot Valiant Dream and the explosive Winner Method so Fownes is hoping a change of scenery can prove the difference.
“He has drawn out in gate eight but he is pretty speedy,” he said. “He is a little bit quirky in the gates, which we have been working on.
“First time around that track is always a bit of a risk but if he takes to it, there is no reason he wouldn’t be competitive.
“He is still learning his trade, he is only lightly raced so he gets a bit agitated in the gates. Joao [Moreira] is getting to know him a bit better now.”
Meanwhile, Fownes says his stable stalwart Southern Legend could race on until the end of the season with the rising nine-year-old set to head to Conghua for a well-earned break before potentially returning for two Group Three races at the end of the season.
Southern Legend ran third in Sunday’s Group One Champions Mile behind Golden Sixty and More Than This in what was his seventh placing in nine starts this term, moving him to HK$57 million in prize money.
“He is beautiful, he will go up to China on Thursday and have a little bit of a quiet time because there are a couple of races this season still for him, the Group Threes,” Fownes said.
“We will see how he is, if he is really flying and has the zest to pick up again, we will run him again. He wasn’t flying going into Sunday and we got him there and he ran third in an international Group One so we are proud of him.”