King of the Valley might hold key to International Jockeys’ Championship

The Caspar Fownes-trained The Judge will be ridden by Christophe Lemaire in the LONGINES International Jockeys’ Championship. Source: HKJC

Trainer Caspar Fownes, the man known as the “King of the Valley”, could play a key part in determining which jockey claims Wednesday night’s (5 December) rich prize for the International Jockeys’ Championship at Happy Valley.

Fownes, who has likely fancied runners in each of the four legs of the series, was horrified by how his horses fared at this morning’s barrier draw but much happier after the random allocation of jockeys proved more fortuitous for the man who has trained more than 400 Happy Valley winners and landed doubles at the past two meetings at the city track.

“I wasn’t too happy this morning, I can tell you, when I came up with three from barrier nine and two from 10 on Wednesday night but the jockeys worked out better,” Fownes said. The wide drawn quintet includes three of his IJC runners.

“Ooh, that’ll do. This horse can win,” Fownes said, in his inimitable style, after the 2016 IJC winner Hugh Bowman was drawn to ride Marvel Joy in the series second leg (race five). Marvel Joy, who finished second at his last start at the course and distance (1650m), is drawn barrier nine as is Fownes’ first leg runner Royal Racer to be ridden by Javier Castellano. “He’ll go back in any case,” Fownes said of Royal Racer.

His remaining runners are Formula Galore (barrier 10, race seven) and The Judge (barrier five, race eight). “Formula Galore’s down in the weights so I’m pretty happy to have Karis (Teetan) on board and certainly no issue with Christophe (Lemaire), who’s been dominating in Japan, jumping on The Judge,” Fownes said. Lemaire tied with Ryan Moore and Johnny Murtagh for first place in the 2009 IJC.

Teetan, who sits second on the Hong Kong jockeys’ premiership and was ninth on his IJC debut last year, looks to have a better book of rides this year. “They don’t look too bad. Nothing great but they all look to have some chance. Caspar’s horse (Formula Galore) ran pretty well last time.

“Electric Lightning (race eight) has good form. He’s a last start winner at the track and drawn well. In the end, a lot of these races will be decided by the draw. Really I’m just very happy to have the opportunity to take part in the series and to win it would be a very nice Christmas present,” Teetan said.

Vincent Ho, who – like Teetan – contests his second IJC having finished fifth in 2014, echoed Teetan’s thoughts when he said: ”It’s not too bad, so-so, but I can’t complain. It’s great to be in the competition, it’s never easy to make the line-up and I’m looking forward to it.

“I don’t think I have too much of an advantage (based here). All the top jockeys race everywhere, at lots of different tracks, so I think they are already very experienced, and a lot of them have ridden here before. It all depends on the horse.”

Last year’s winner Zac Purton said he should be “longer odds this time” than he was in 2017. However, he also downplayed his chances of taking the HK$500,000 prize before the 2017 Championship.

The stellar 2018 IJC line-up also includes Silvestre de Sousa, crowned champion jockey in Britain for a third time this year, plus global superstar, Ryan Moore, also a three-time champion in Britain and a dual IJC winner. Colin Keane, 2017 champion in Ireland, contests his first IJC while French ace Mickael Barzalona is back after debuting in the 2016 Championship.

Legends of the sport in Japan’s Yutaka Take and Javier Castellano, from the United States, who have ridden more than 9,000 winners combined, will also be making their way to Happy Valley. Matthew Poon completes the line-up having secured his first IJC spot as the second highest ranked jockey on the Hong Kong premiership table (bar Zac Purton who was guaranteed a place as reigning champion) at the selection cut-off date (21 November).