TRAINER Caspar Fownes is the man to follow once again when racing gets underway with an excellent eight-race mid-week programme at Happy Valley in Hong Kong today.
The former four-time champion trainer has found the winners’ circle to be his second home in recent weeks and, once again, sends a strong raiding party to his favourite track, where he has had so much success in the past.
The 56-year-old will be hoping that lightning strikes twice for a couple of his contenders, namely Valhalla who won with plenty in hand three weeks back and seeks a repeat in the Island Handicap (12.45pm) over six furlongs, and improving June Planet who has only Durham Town to beat in the Shum Wan Handicap (1.45pm) over the extended mile.
Of more interest, however, are two Fownes gallopers who have found it hard to win in the past, but have been brought clearly to the boil and are ready to strike.
In the Nam Fung Handicap (1.15pm) over five furlongs, old campaigner EXPLOSIVE WITNESS may have four victories to his name, but he hasn’t won for three seasons, and must have tested his trainer’s patience to the limit.
There have been extenuating circumstances, however, with a catalogue of injuries and health issues, curtailing what could have been a good career and the fact that Fownes has kept him in training suggests he believes there must be another win for his charge.
The son of Star Witness has had no luck in both his races this season, once when having an interrupted passage at the Valley and then seeing no daylight down the straight course at Sha Tin.
This time, with the inside draw one in his favour, the ‘Head Waiter’ pilot Hugh Bowman should have a saloon passage along the rails and, given luck, be able to pounce late for an overdue win.
ROYAL PRIDE, who takes his chance in the competitive Wong Chuk Handicap (3.50pm) over the extended mile is another who hasn’t reached the dizzy heights expected, after winning twice and being placed in Group company back in Australia a few seasons back.
The son of top sire Medaglia d’Oro finds himself at the bottom of the weights against a number of seasoned handicappers, but there are reasons to believe he has been lined up for this contest.
Having ended last season with an encouraging performance over an inadequate six furlongs at Sha Tin, the six-year-old produced an eye-catching effort when finishing strongly with jockey Alexis Badel aboard when reappearing over seven furlongs last month.
Having had limited gallops and no trial before that contest, he is now guaranteed to be in top condition, and makes plenty of appeal.
Principle threats include consistent Red Majesty and Eighteen Palms, who are worth including in Quinella and Quinella Place bets.
Explosive Witness 1.15pm Happy Valley
Royal Pride (e/w) 3.50pm Happy Valley