The LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) preparation – both flawed and challenging – is complete, but Caspar Fownes won’t know the success of the operation until Classique Legend shapes to unleash his scorching late sprint at Sha Tin on Sunday (13 December).
Classique Legend arrived in Hong Kong on 11 November, presenting Fownes with a string of hurdles, not least horse health and form, before undergoing an unorthodox build-up to the HK$22 million sprint.
To face Japanese speedsters Danon Smash and Tower Of London over 1200m, as well as the best Hong Kong has to offer, the former Australian seems destined for a baptism of fire under Vincent Ho.
But Fownes, who won the Sprint in 2011 with Lucky Nine, retains telling faith in the explosive grey who has not raced since an astonishing victory in the AU$15 million The Everest at Randwick Racecourse on 17 October.
“He looks well within himself, he’s a comfortable and happy horse,” Fownes said.
“I just hope that he can give us a big run in the time frame that we’ve had with him.
“I feel like I’ve done enough with him to give us a big race. I’m happy with him. He’s come on a lot since his trial. Now it’s a case of whether he’s there and can produce one more time.”
Classique Legend is the glamour runner of four Fownes stable entries across the Group 1 features.
Columbus County will be the first into the fray as he bids for the HK$20 million LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m) under Joao Moreira.
“Columbus County is very well. Obviously, he’s rising a lot in a short period of time in the grades but he showed last start that he was competitive, running third (to Furore in the Group 2 Jockey Club Cup),” Fownes said.
“It’s a nice, small field and from a soft draw, he could maybe run third or fourth. Anything above that would be a bonus for us.”
Veteran Southern Legend (Karis Teetan) will seek to continue a consistent season in the HK$25 million LONGINES Hong Kong Mile in a contest dominated by the presence of Golden Sixty, winner of his past 10 starts.
“Southern Legend is a great old horse. He comes out of gate six. I think he’s in as good as form as I can have him, considering he’s eight,” Fownes said.
“It looks a really tough race so, to be realistic, it would be great to pick up a cheque with him.”
Ho will ride Dances With Dragon in the HK $28 million LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m) and Fownes is optimistic the gelding can continue to improve, albeit against Aidan O’Brien’s Magical and the Japanese trio of Win Bright, Danon Premium and Normcore.
“Dances With Dragon has come a long way in a short time,” Fownes said.
“Again, it’s going to be tough but with a total of eight runners in the race he’ll be back and he’ll give us a good sectional.
“Hopefully he can pick up a cheque between third and fifth.”
Aside from his quartet of HKIR entries, Fownes will also saddle Arrogant in the Class 3 Flintshire Handicap (1800m), Pure Legend in the Class 3 Highland Reel Handicap (1400m) and Sky Field in the Class 2 Lord Kanaloa Handicap (1200m).
Formerly trained by Michael Moroney, Arrogant was runner-up to The Autumn Sun in the 2019 Group 1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m) and will be ridden on Sunday by Vagner Borges after an encouraging third in an 1800m Class 3 at Sha Tin on 14 November.
Australian-bred Pure Legend won his last start pre-import for John Sadler in a 1400m maiden at Sandown Racecourse before transferring to Fownes. He will be handled by Ho on Sunday.
Sky Field is among Joao Moreira’s book of 10 mounts for the meeting and is a runner Fownes believes can climb through the classes.
“I’m looking forward to Sky Field,” Fownes said. “He’s a horse which, I’ve said for a while, is very smart.
“He’s still raw, so it’s exciting because you don’t know where his top is. He’s still learning all the time and obviously he’s taking on Winning Dreamer.
“He’s (Winning Dreamer) got gate one, we’ve got gate six. As long as Sky Field can relax, it should be a two-horse war down the straight.
“They’re both really good horses and my guy is just starting to understand what it’s about. I think this time next year he’ll be in the big race.”
The LONGINES Hong Kong International Races start at 12.25pm on Sunday (13 December) with the running of the Class 3 Snow Fairy Handicap (1200m).