Championship-leading trainer Caspar Fownes knows he will need new stock if he is to maintain his hot start to the season and green shoots began to appear at Sha Tin on Friday in the form of two youngsters.
Both Master Fay and Royal Bomb emerged as talented types for the handler, who enjoyed a perfect start to 2021 with a treble after Explosive Witness also saluted in the Group Three Bauhinia Sprint Trophy.
Master Fay was sent out a prohibitive odds-on favourite in the Class Four Palm Handicap (1,200m) by punters and subsequently delivered in spades with a dominant debut win.
The three-year-old was one of nine first starters in the contest and proved to be a class above, despite his greenness.
The son of Deep Field showed exceptional ability at the trials prior to racing and Fownes was happy he was able to translate that form to the racetrack.
“He has a couple of little things that he does that are a bit naughty, so we gave him a little bit of time,” he said. “Even today you can see he came out of the gates a little bit slow but he has got some brilliance and some class, so he has a big future. Hopefully he will learn from that race because it is different when you are in there compared to barrier trials. Today you get a few bumps, you miss the start, everything is different so they learn a lot more. It was a great
way to start his Hong Kong career.”
It was far from smooth sailing for jockey Joao Moreira, who lost one of his irons 200m from home after the horse attempted to run about in the straight, which Fownes was happy to put down to inexperience.
“He is a quirky horse, I have to handle him the right way,” he said. “He is the type of horse that if you don’t handle him the right way, he can go the other way and get a bit silly.”
It will only get tougher for the talented type, who is likely to get bumped into Class Three by handicappers for the performance.
“I think he has some potential, Hong Kong racing is very tough because he will go to Class Three now so it gets tougher again,” Fownes said. “You are racing against seasoned horses, they are tough and then you have a young and inexperienced horse. Importantly he has got the engine so hopefully in a few months we will have something that is quite nice.”
Fownes has often spoken about the need for fresh blood midway through the season to continue his premiership charge and landing the first winner of 2021 gives every indication that help may be on the way.
While Royal Bomb is a year older than his stablemate, he showed he could be one for the future with the four-year-old dashing clear when given the chance by Christophe Soumillon to win in just his third Hong Kong start.
Previously raced as Iscariot in South Australia, Royal Bomb has made an impression quickly in his new environment and will get another opportunity in Class Three.
“He ran very well over 1,200m in his first starts, he was looking like he wanted the extra furlong and he ate that up today,” Fownes said. “You need some luck in this game and we took advantage of it, we had a good draw and he fought hard down the straight. It was only his third run in Hong Kong so if you can win a race, you’ve done very well.”
Zero to hero for Tony Cruz
Tony Cruz watched as his hot favourite Computer Patch flopped to finish last in the Group Three Bauhinia Sprint Trophy (1,000m) earlier in the day, but his mood quickly improved after a pair of Class Two wins at Sha Tin.
Cruz’s sprinter failed to carry the top weight but the same cannot be said for California Rad and Circuit Three, who got the job done as short-priced favourites in their respective races.
California Rad was set a task by Moreira in the Class Two Cherry Handicap (1,200m) but responded in impressive fashion after getting out of a tight situation with 200m to run.
Circuit Three was a dominant winner of the Class Two Chinese Banyan Handicap (1,600m) after travelling in a midfield position with cover.
“The two that I was able to win on for Tony Cruz seem to be nice horses, they were ready to win and they didn’t let us down,” Moreira said.
What’s next for Chadwick?
Matthew Chadwick must be wondering what is next after the jockey was aboard Natural Winner when he broke down and ran through the rail.
The 30-year-old has been battered from pillar to post this season and Friday’s incident could
have been much worse if it wasn’t for the recently installed plastic running rail.
While Chadwick walked away from the incident unharmed, it is another mishap to add to a growing list of unfortunate events.
After only recently returning from concussion suffered during a fall, Chadwick had hoped for a clear run at the rest of the season after also suffering a broken nose and having back surgery earlier in the term.
Ho Ho Holiday
Vincent Ho Chak-yiu was suspended for three meetings and fined HK$60,000 for his ride aboard Winning Dreamer in the Group Three Chinese Club Challenge Cup (1,400m).
The leading local jockey was charged with careless riding after attempting to push the four-year-old out at the top of the straight, which caused significant interference to the likes of Fat Turtle, Kings Shield, Mighty Giant and Sky Darci.
Ho, who had a double on the day with Diamond Rhyme and Sea Of Life, will miss meetings on January 13,17 and 20 before returning for Classic Mile day on the 24th.
The defeat was Winning Dreamer’s first of his career and vets reported the rising star was found to have had blood in his trachea after the race.