Southern Legend has made the last weekend in May his own in the past couple of seasons and Caspar Fownes hopes his gun galloper can continue that trend in Sunday’s Group Three Lion Rock Trophy (1,600m) at Sha Tin.
While the surroundings will be different – on this weekend in 2018 and 2019 the seven-year-old was pillaging the Kranji Mile in Singapore – Southern Legend enters the race in arguably career-best form after snaring his first international Group One in last month’s Champions Mile.
“These horses, when they’re in good form we have got to run them otherwise he’s going to be away for another five or six months,” Fownes said. “He’s really well in himself. I saw him on the weekend and he looks beautiful, he’s pulled up really well [from the Champions Mile].”
While Covid-19 put paid to Southern Legend’s chances of a Kranji Mile three-peat, the trade-off was nothing short of a dream result, with jockey Vincent Ho Chak-yiu – who retains the ride – securing his first Group One success.
It was also Fownes’ first Group One win since 2014 and he’s keen to give his ageing galloper another chance to add to his more than HK$40 million in prize money.
“He’s not getting any younger so while he’s there and he’s got the potential to earn some more money for the owner, we’ll just keep going,” he said.
Southern Legend carries the top weight of 133 pounds in Sunday’s contest, lugging 20 pounds more than six of his rivals and 19 more than Elusive State.
“I’m sure he’ll give a big run even though he’s carrying 133, he’s a big solid horse so he should be able to carry the weight,” Fownes said. “It’s just when you’re giving some progressive horses 15 to 20 pounds that it becomes tough.”
Among those at the bottom of the weights is another Fownes-trained galloper in Dances With Dragon, who graduates to Group company after a scintillating run of form for his third handler.
After two Class Three wins from 22 starts across stints with Chris So Wai-yin and Peter Ho Leung, the six-year-old has won three of his four starts for Fownes, including the past two in Class Two at Happy Valley.
“He has really turned the corner in a short period of time and coming in off 113 pounds and back to the Sha Tin grass, hopefully he’ll give us a big finish,” Fownes said.
“When they come into the yard, you spend some time with them and try a few different things and hope something works. With him it has, he’s a happy horse and he’s putting in.
“He’s drawn seven so he’ll just position up where he’s comfortable and hopefully the light weight will give us a chance to see him flying home. He’s in good form and he deserves his place in the race.”
Fownes’ pair tackles the likes of Group One placegetters Ka Ying Star and Rattan, as well as the consistent Preciousship and up and comers Beauty Legacy and General’s Delight.
Keith Yeung Ming-lun takes the ride on Dances With Dragon – “he’s a good kid and he follows instructions, so he gets his chance” – and also partners Seven Heavens for Fownes in the Class Two Amah Rock Handicap (1,200m).