Fownes’ Rocket has Spades of potential to Snaffle first win
WITH the Chinese New Year celebrations in Hong Kong done and dusted after a couple of weeks racing at Sha Tin, the action resumes at Happy Valley with another highly competitive nine-race programme.
It hasn’t been easy for bettors in the past fortnight, with numerous double-figure odds winners obliging, causing dismay and anguish to many spectators.
Although the ‘people’s champion’ Golden Sixty reigned supreme again in the Stewards’ Cup on Sunday, hot favourite Romantic Warrior failed to live up to expectations, while the subsequent result in the Hong Kong Classic Mile produced more questions than answers, and was greeted by disbelief by many formbook students.
Winner Voyage Bubble was officially rated 30lbs below the best in the level-weights contest, but still managed to lead from start to finish and beat better fancied rivals.
Hopefully normality will be restored at the city-track today, and it could pay to follow the ‘King of the Valley’, trainer Caspar Fownes, to come to bettors’ rescue with ROCKET SPADE in the feature race of the day; the Volunteers’ Challenge Cup Handicap (1.15pm) over nine furlongs.
The former four-time champion trainer has no peers when it comes to saddling winners at the Valley and has already visited the winners’ circle 18 times at the city-track this season.
Fownes had great expectations about this son of Fastnet Rock when he joined the stable a couple of seasons back, believing he had a potential Hong Kong Derby winner on his hands.
Rocket Spade has had niggling health issues and was slow to acclimatise, which put Fownes on the back-foot, although there have been encouraging signs along the way.
Having been an eye-catcher when finishing strongly in the closing stages behind one of the most improved performers in Hong Kong, Super Sunny Sing, over an inadequate seven furlongs in December, Hugh Bowman over-did the waiting tactics when dashing too late to catch Encountered over the extended mile at the Valley three weeks ago.
With the step up in distance a major plus, having won over further when racing in New Zealand, the five-year-old gets a gilt-edged opportunity to record his first win, especially with Bowman sure to have him in the right place this time.
For anyone looking for an attractive long-shot in the contest, keep an eye on the David Hayes-trained SNAFFLES who looks about to peak after an encouraging effort at Sha Tin early last month.
This son of Churchill, and former two-time winner for Joseph O’Brien back in Ireland, was bought over to Hong Kong with the Hong Kong Derby in mind, but has been slow to adjust to his new surroundings, and is only now starting to show his real ability.
His recent performance behind Sword Point in a highly competitive handicap over this trip at Sha Tin, where he stayed on well in the closing stages, suggests he could be well-handicapped if stepping forward again, and he makes plenty of each-way appeal.
Rocket Spade 1.15pm Happy Valley
Snaffles (e/w) 1.15pm Happy Valley