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Caspar Fownes seeks more G3 Centenary Vase success

February 2, 2024 at 4:26:21 AM

Upbeat after a midweek double, Caspar Fownes will chase a third consecutive G3 Centenary Vase Handicap (1800m) triumph when the four-time Hong Kong champion trainer saddles last year’s winner Senor Toba and talented Straight Arron in the HK$4.2 million feature at Sha Tin on Sunday (4 February).

Upbeat after a midweek double, Caspar Fownes will chase a third consecutive G3 Centenary Vase Handicap (1800m) triumph when the four-time Hong Kong champion trainer saddles last year’s winner Senor Toba and talented Straight Arron in the HK$4.2 million feature at Sha Tin on Sunday (4 February).

Fownes produced Zebrowski in 2022 before Senor Toba’s victory last season and he hopes his pair can again contend strongly this year in a capacity field of 14.

“Senor Toba appears to be well. I thought he had a nice trial on Friday (26 January). He comes with a nice galloping weight of 125 (lb) and he looks good, so we’re hopeful that he comes back and did what he did last year,” Fownes said of the grey, who will start from barrier 11 under Keagan De Melo.

Hugh Bowman, who dominated at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (31 January) with four winners, partners Straight Arron from barrier three as Fownes plots a course towards the G1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m) with the five-year-old.

“He’s good. He’s got a big weight – 135 (lb) – but it’s a nice way for Hughie to get acquainted with him before the big race three weeks later. I thought it was a nice way for him (Bowman) to get to know the horse and if things work out on Sunday, he has a chance to win.

“Either way, Hugh will just get a good feel for the horse and be cherry ripe for the big day,” Fownes said.

Fownes has delivered four wins with Straight Arron, who was excellent in finishing fourth to Romantic Warrior in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m) on 10 December.

While Straight Arron has been nominated for both the G1 Dubai Sheema Classic (2410m) and the G1 Dubai Turf (1800m), Fownes is non-committal about to travelling to the middle east.

“He’s been entered for Dubai and if he comes out and runs really well at set weights (in the G1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup), that’s the only way you could look at it (travelling) because it’s just not feasible because the other horses – the international horses – are just too good and we have to be realistic,” Fownes said.

“His performance in December (LONGINES Hong Kong Cup) was great. He was unlucky and he hit a new high there. His last race was a mile (sixth to Voyage Bubble in the G1 Stewards’ Cup), which we know doesn’t suit him but 1800 (metres), he’s shown that he can perform at 1800 (metres) and over 2000 (metres) and up, so this race will tell us where we are with him.”

Francis Lui will bid for a second victory in the HK$13 million Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m) when he unleashes Chancheng Glory and Speed Dragon in the first leg of the HK$52 million Four-Year-Old Classic Series.

Lui, who first struck in the Hong Kong Classic Mile with Golden Sixty in 2020, has secured Frenchman Mickael Barzalona to ride Speed Dragon, who stamped his credentials with a narrow 1600m win under James McDonald on 17 December.

“I think Mickael being a European jockey that his style will suit the horse. Hopefully he runs well,” said Lui, who retains Lyle Hewitson on Chancheng Glory.

“Chancheng Glory is in good form. Everything is good.”

John Size chases his fourth success in the Hong Kong Classic Mile with Helios Express, who jumps from barrier six under Bowman and Howdeepisyourlove, who starts from gate nine under McDonald. Size previously scored with Sun Jewellery (2016), Nothingilikemore (2018) and Excellent Proposal (2021).

Helene Feeling, Moments In Time, Beauty Crescent, Fallon and Star Mac complete the Hong Kong Classic Mile line-up, all assigned 126lb.

Sha Tin’s 10-race card kicks off on Sunday (4 February) with the Class 5 Primula Handicap (1200m, dirt) at 1pm.

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