Caspar Fownes has a fifth title in his sights in 2023-24, but perhaps even more exciting for the veteran trainer is what lies ahead for his progressive five-year-old Straight Arron.
After trialling at Happy Valley this Saturday, Straight Arron will resume in next weekend’s Group Three Celebration Cup (1,400m) at Sha Tin before plotting a course towards
December’s Longines Hong Kong International Races.
“Straight Arron excites me the most in the stable. He’s summered beautifully, and he’ll have his first run next weekend,” Fownes said.
“We’ll start him off over seven furlongs and build from there. I’m pretty confident he’s a 120-rated horse. We’re hopeful he wins a couple and can mix it with the Group One horses this season.
“I think he’s a better horse at the 2,000m, even though he won the [Group Three Queen Mother Memorial Cup (2,400m)] and ran very well [in the Group One Champions & Chater Cup (2,400m)].
“He came a long way in a short period of time, so now you’ve just got to hope they can back up and we can really see what we’ve got to work with. He’s exciting going forward. I’m not saying he’s a superstar, but he could potentially be very, very good.”
Last crowned champion trainer in 2020-21 thanks to a career-best 79 wins, Fownes would not put a number on what he thinks it will take to win the crown this year but says he has set himself lofty goals in his 21st season as a Hong Kong handler.
“I’ve set myself a pretty big target this year, so I’d like to hope I can achieve my numbers. That will give me a chance to fight for a fifth title,” Fownes said.
“I think it should be a good year. I think we’ve got the right horses spread over the classes.
“We’ve got some good new horses coming in, who we feel can bring something to the table. We’ve got some new horses who we’ve paid a bit of coin for. We just need to hope they get the job done and give us some good results for the owners.
“But when they come in here, you need a bit of luck that they can adapt to this environment – the heat, the humidity and the different surfaces we’re on. If they can adjust to that, you’re a chance.”
Among Fownes’ Classic Series crop are Group Three CS Hayes Stakes (1,400m) winner Elliptical for the same connections as Straight Arron, as well as Group Two WATC Derby (2,400m) winner Awesome John – now named Awesome Fluke – and Boniface Ho Ka-kui’s Fashion Legend, who was the runner-up in the Group Three Winx Guineas (1,600m) when last seen in July.
Fownes opened his seasonal account with Valhalla at Happy Valley on Wednesday and heads to Sha Tin on Sunday with five runners.
While Kurpany looks to have his work cut out against Dream Winner in the Class Two
Causeway Bay Handicap (1,000m), Fownes identified a Class Four galloper he expects to put in a forward showing.
“Dream Winner looks like a machine – he looks very, very good. Kurpany could run third or fourth, but he’s better suited at Happy Valley or on the dirt,” Fownes said.
“Even though he hasn’t won a race, I thought old Proud Dragon was ready to do something. He’s been up in China for the whole prep, and he looks probably the best I’ve seen him in the past couple of years. Sometimes patience is a virtue, and hopefully, we can get a result for the owner. He deserves it.”
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