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Fownes chases successive G3 Queen Mother Memorial Cup with imposing trio

May 5, 2023 at 3:16:21 AM

Caspar Fownes will unleash a formidable armada of runners on the G3 Queen Mother Memorial Cup Handicap (2400m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (7 May) as the four-time Hong Kong champion trainer bids for successive wins in the HK$3.9 million staying test.

Caspar Fownes will unleash a formidable armada of runners on the G3 Queen Mother Memorial Cup Handicap (2400m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (7 May) as the four-time Hong Kong champion trainer bids for successive wins in the HK$3.9 million staying test.

Fownes will be represented by 2022 winner Senor Toba, G1 place-getter Columbus County and exciting prospect Straight Arron in a 12-horse field which also features G1 winners Russian Emperor and Panfield as well as 2021 Queen Mother Memorial Cup victor Butterfield.

Senor Toba, who carried 120lb to victory last season under Joao Moreira, will shoulder 134lb on Sunday for Harry Bentley as he returns to Sha Tin after an unavailing overseas campaign which produced three unplaced finishes in Qatar and Dubai.

“Coming back from overseas, he appears to be in good enough form. He’s carrying a big weight, coming off a couple of substandard efforts overseas which disappointed us, so he’s got to bounce back in Sha Tin,” Fownes said of the grey, who trialled strongly at Happy Valley on 21 April, winning over 1700m.

“He won this race last year, so he’s out there again to see how he is. His work has been fine, he trialled up pretty good at Happy Valley and he’s fit and well, so now we just see if he can bring it to the races and show us something.”

With Senor Toba’s triumph last season and Saturn’s 2005 victory as benchmarks, Fownes expects G1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2400m) runner-up Columbus County to figure prominently under Matthew Chadwick with a light weight.

“It’s a race where he’s going to be competitive carrying 120lb. He’s been set for this race for a while, his form is pretty good. He ran well the other day in the mile (G2 Chairman’s Trophy) and now 2400m is more to his liking. We would be expecting a first-three, first-four finish and hopefully he can do that for us,” Fownes said.

Straight Arron, an untapped talent untried beyond 2000m, completes Fownes’ triumvirate and is handicapped to carry only 115lb under Vincent Ho after his devastating last-start Class 2 win over 1800m.

“He’s (Straight Arron) done nothing wrong since he’s joined me. Obviously, it’s a big step up in distance. If he relaxes and runs out the trip, hopefully he can give us a big run,” Fownes said.

“He’s out of the handicap, probably by six or seven pounds, which is a bit. I knew that would happen but I put him in there because I really don’t know what his true rating is. I do that with horses when I think they’re well below where their potential line is.”

Ellis Wong, 22, will have his first ride in Hong Kong when the apprentice partners last-start winner Kaholo Angel for Fownes in the Carnation Plate (1000m) for Griffins.

Fownes is optimistic Wong, who claims 10lb, will perform well after riding 88 winners in South Australia during productive stints with trainers Grant Young and Gary Searle.

“It’s nice to have another apprentice. We’ve looked after the previous apprentices and we’ll be doing the same with the young lad,” said Fownes, who previously helped mould the career of Vincent Ho.

“We’re just trying to get him mentally and physically prepared for Hong Kong and give him support and hopefully get some winners with him before the season’s out.”

Sunday’s (7 May) 11-race card starts at Sha Tin with the Carnation Plate (1000m) for Griffins at 12.30pm.

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