Armed with an impressive trio of entrants, Caspar Fownes is hopeful Sky Darci can lead a successful stable onslaught on the Group 2 Oriental Watch 60th Anniversary Sha Tin Trophy Handicap (1600m) on Sunday (17 October).
The reigning champion trainer will saddle the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) winner along with Southern Legend and Columbus County in an intriguing contest, which will also feature Panfield, Russian Emperor and Waikuku.
Joao Moreira will partner Sky Darci (120lb) as the seven-time Hong Kong winner bids to enhance an already imposing record following a first-up third behind Buddies in the Group 3 Celebration Cup Handicap (1400m) last month.
“He’s come out of the first race very well. Hopefully, he can make his presence felt. He’s still improving – his best races will still be in November, December,” Fownes said.
“But, in saying that, he gets his chance to win on the weekend. His work on Tuesday morning was really good.”
Southern Legend will shoulder top weight of 133lb at his second run this campaign after a respectable sixth behind Buddies on 26 September.
“The old champ worked well on Tuesday. Blake Shinn was very happy with him. He said he felt enormous,” Fownes said.
“Obviously the handicap races are going to be tough. First-up, over 1400m, he got beaten just under five lengths. This time, we expect he can be within three lengths of the winner. He’s getting there. The races in November and December will be to his advantage with the ratings.”
Stayer Columbus County (120lb) completes Fownes’ entry.
“The race will be just a warm-up for races later in December. We gave him a nice easy trial last week and he pulled up well and he’s ready to go to the races,” the trainer said.
“We’d like to just see him closing off nicely with some good sectionals. An eye-catching fifth to eighth would makes us very happy.”
Fownes will tackle the Group 2 Premier Bowl Handicap (1200m) with Sky Field, a surging second behind Super Wealthy in the Group 3 National Day Cup Handicap (1000m) on 1 October.
“He’s a very good horse and he ran enormous first-up,” Fownes said. “But he’s got 133 pounds, so when you’re giving horses like Courier Wonder 13 pounds and Naboo Attack 19 pounds, it’s going to be tough because I always respect the handicap in Hong Kong with the top horses.
“When you give progressive horses weight, they’re always a good chance to beat you. But, we just going to ride him where he’s comfortable – it’s all about December with this horse. If we snag one before that, it’s going to be a beautiful bonus.”