He’s been unlucky not to hit the board so far this season but trainer Caspar Fownes is taking solace in the knowledge that his return to a track he’s had an affinity with for decades is only a couple of days away.
Fownes, widely known as the “King of the Valley”, has landed three seconds in the opening two meetings of the term – both held at Sha Tin – but is ready to put that behind him as he heads to the city circuit with seven runners on Wednesday night.
“From being a young guy in Hong Kong I’ve always had an affinity with the Valley,” Fownes said. “I always set my horses for that track and I’ll be doing my best to remain the King of the Valley.
“It’s good to be heading back there. I’ve been a bit unlucky so far this season but my horses are racing well so I’m happy. That being said, it’s always good to snag a winner early.”
Despite having to settle for seventh in last season’s trainers’ premiership, Fownes racked up more Valley victories than anyone else, with 26 of his 42 winners coming at the city circuit.
One of Fownes’ better chances to continue that form comes in the night’s marquee race – the Class Two Big Wave Bay Handicap (1,650m) – with Green Luck looking to carry on his strong finish to last season.
The five-year-old won twice at the course and distance in Class Three – with appearances in the first two legs of the four-year-old series sandwiched in between – before placing twice in Class Two towards the end of last season.
Green Luck ran on nicely behind Mission Tycoon, who he meets on Wednesday night, in a recent trial to suggest he has maintained his fitness and Fownes is hopeful he can show improvement this campaign.
“I’ve been saying for a while that I think he’ll reach triple figures [in the ratings] and I hope I’m right,” he said.
Another horse who took a liking to the Valley mile last season is Perfect To Play, saluting twice at the trip in Class Four before completing his campaign with a Class Three second at the course and distance.
He’s drawn nicely in gate five to go one better in the Class Three Deep Water Bay Handicap (1,650m) but Fownes knows a lot will depend on how the five-year-old starts.
“He seems to have hit his straps and he’s had a good prep heading into this race,” Fownes said. “He’s still a bit of a turd in the gates but we’ve put a lot of work into him.”
Joao Moreira rides both Green Luck and Perfect To Play – as well Royal Racer and Sky Gem – for Fownes on Wednesday night, with the trainer saying he plans to “share the love” among jockeys this season.
Fownes said reigning champion jockey Zac Purton would have been aboard Green Luck if he hadn’t already committed to the Francis Lui Kin-wai-trained Doctor Geoff and the Australian rides Jumbo Happiness for Fownes in the last event on the card.
Fownes said he also plans to continue his association with leading local jockey Vincent Ho Chak-yiu after the pair combined for 11 winners last term, while he also hopes to engage newcomer Blake Shinn.