Southern Legend was brilliant winning the Ladies’ Purse, but his ultimate assignment – either way – will have him up against the very best. Photo by the HKJC.

Michael Cox’s HK Six-Up: Caspar To Pick His Poison

Michael Cox




Pick your poison: get beat up by Beauty Generation in the Hong Kong Mile, or risk being annihilated by Almond Eye in the Hong Kong Cup. They are the unenviable options for trainers like Caspar Fownes as they weigh up Hong Kong International Day decisions.

Southern Legend’s win over 1800m last weekend in the Group 3 Ladies’ Purse opened up options for Fownes and he has entered his honest money-spinner in the G2 Jockey Club Cup over 2000m on November 17.

It is a race in which he also has Beauty Generation’s last-start conqueror Rise High entered, and for both horses the Jockey Club Cup will dictate which of the International Day features the duo contest.

Southern Legend is accomplished at a mile, and until Tuesday’s announcement that Almond Eye would contest the Hong Kong Cup, avoiding Beauty Generation and stepping up to 2000m – a considerably richer race at that – seemed like a good idea.

For Rise High, the win in the Group 2 Sha Tin Trophy over Beauty Generation vindicated Fownes’ opinion that he has a top class middle distance horse on his hands, but the presence of Almond Eye could tempt him to avoid her and stretch to 2400m of the Group 1 Hong Kong Vase.


Trainer Caspar Fownes has some serious horse-placement decisions to make leading into HKIR week in December. Photo by HKJC.

“We do have to take into account the fact she is coming, she is a superstar,” Fownes said, referring to the six-time Group 1 winner Almond Eye.

“I’ll let this race decide with both Southern Legend and Rise High, it will be a good gauge. Exultant ran enormous time out and will be fitter for that run, so he will be our benchmark.”


Almond Eye equals diminished Cup

Fownes’ distance dilemma demonstrates the downside of attracting a marquee name like Almond Eye to the December showpiece, it is one thing for local horses like Southern Legend and Rise High to be changing tack, but it could cause connections of potential overseas rivals to reconsider travel plans altogether.


Could the presence of Almond Eye reduce international competitors wanting to take on the Hong Kong Cup? Photo by JRA.


There is already word that connections of one potential Hong Kong Cup candidate have cold feet now faced with the prospect of travelling halfway around the world to cop a caning from one of the world’s best racemares.

Like Fownes with Rise High, those with more versatile horses may lean towards the Hong Kong Vase, worth less at 20 million HKD, but a far more winnable contest.

Almond Eye’s presence lifts the profile of International Day and is overwhelmingly positive, but it is almost certain to result in a less-than-capacity – and weaker – Cup field.


Lui’s plans for four-year-olds

Francis Lui is in the rare situation of having two strong chances for the 2020 four-year-old series, which starts with January’s Hong Kong Classic Mile and culminates with the Hong Kong Derby.

The 94-rated Golden Sixty – a winner of both starts this season and five from six overall – will carry close to top weight in a mixed ratings band Class Two (95-75) over 1400m on November 23.

The 90-rated More Than This, also a winner of two-from-two this term, will contest the always-competitive 1600m Class Two on International Day in December.


It’s Classique, not classic

One southern hemisphere four-year-old not on the four-year-old series path is Hong Kong-bound Classique Legend, although the smart sprinter is still destined to end up with Caspar Fownes.

Owned by Southern Legend’s owner Boniface Ho, Classique Legend was a desperately unlucky sixth, beaten less than three lengths, in the Everest and was a flat 12thin last weekend’s Golden Eagle over 1500m.

Had Classique Legend ran well at 1500m Fownes was still holding out hope the horse could contest the Hong Kong Classic Mile in late January, and although that idea has been scrapped, the trainer still believes the import will be a versatile campaigner.

“Classique Legend will go for a spell now and come in January,” Fownes said.

“I haven’t given up on him getting over 1400m or further one day, I think the run the other day just showed that he was in need of a break, or just felt the ground a bit, more than it indicated he couldn’t get the trip. His trainer Les Bridge is an exceptional trainer and he felt 1500m would not be a problem at all, so I wouldn’t rule it out. At the very least we know from his run in the Everest that we have a world class sprinter on its way to us, so we will just start him off in the sprint races and see where he takes us.”


On Way to Derby

Champion’s Way starts on his own path to the four-year-old series in Saturday’s Panasonic Cup over 1400m, the same race Size kicked off his 2013 Derby winner Luger’s campaign six years ago.

Of course Luger’s Hong Kong Derby campaign was far from smooth-sailing with Size pulling off one of the great training feats to win the big one.

Luger was diagnosed with an irregular heart rhythm when unplaced as 1.8 favourite first-up, missed his following start and Size was forced to head into the big race second-up, a month after a 1600m Class Two win.


Weather forecast stormy

Saturday’s undercard contains another 2020 four-year-old series hopeful with a less-than-illustrious claim-to-fame.

The Douglas Whyte-trained The Weatherman is a half-brother to former cult horse Storm Kid, a horse best known for flashy looks, a graceful but slow motion galloping action and a complete lack of ability.

The Weatherman, rated 78 after three wins in Europe, is already more accomplished than his half-sibling, who finished his career with a zero from 14 record and is now a riding horse at the Jockey Club’s Beas River facility.

Although all of The Weatherman’s form for former trainer Archie Watson was at sprint trips and the son of Showcasing is debuting over 1000m, his pedigree suggests that trips 1600m or even further could be where he shows his best.




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