The Caspar Fownes-trained Rise High looks to have some of Hong Kong’s biggest races on his radar after taking the traditional end-of-season feature, the Sha Tin Mile Trophy, at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Rise High was coming off two eye-catching wins and only added to his burgeoning reputation with a length and three-quarter success over G1 winner Rivet, who produced his best run since his arrival in Hong Kong. Purton admitted the yielding track was a concern for the Myboycharlie four-year-old heading into the Class 1 contest.
“Obviously, he’s a progressive horse, it was just a matter of whether he was going to handle the track today,” Purton said. “Caspar had given him a little bit of an easy time since his last run so, with the ground the way it is, he might have just been a little soft as well. But he showed his class today and every start he’s having, his race brain is getting better – he’s relaxing better, he’s helping himself out now instead of working against himself.”
Rise High (yellow cap) races to the lead in the Sha Tin Mile Trophy, clinching the Champion Jockey title for Zac Purton
Five of the last six winners of the Sha Tin Mile Trophy have gone on to G1 success the following season, and Fownes holds high hopes that Rise High can join that group.
“He’s a very nice horse and I’ve got a lot of time for him,” he said. “We skipped the Derby with him because I thought it would be the making of the horse. I’ve just given him the time he’s needed and he’s come out and shown us that he’s very progressive. This time next year, I think we’ll be seeing a horse rated 120, no problems.
“If he can come out at his first couple of runs next season and show us that he’s a Group 1 horse, that’s what we are looking for. Obviously, Class 1 and Group 1 is totally different, but he’s a horse that keeps improving and I think the summer break will be beneficial to him. We won’t rush him, but we would love to get to December with him and it won’t take much for his rating to get there.”
Fownes is excited for what next season may hold with Kranji Mile winner Southern Legend joining Rise High on the potential path to the LONGINES Hong Kong International Races at the end of the year.
“It’s about time, I love having these sorts of horses and we just haven’t had a lot of luck recently,” the trainer said. “I’ve got my fingers crossed now, they both look to be progressive and they both look to be versatile. Rise High looks like you can race him anywhere from a mile to 2000m, while Southern Legend showed he can win from on the speed last time out which is gold over here. We tried that with Rise High today too, we took advantage of the good gate and he delivered.”
The second feature of the day, the Class 2 Hong Kong Racehorse Owners Association Trophy Handicap (1400m), produced a thunderous cheer from the crowd as Purton and Moreira went head-to-head in the closing stages. However, coming through along the inside was 13-time champion rider Douglas Whyte aboard the Francis Lui-trained Star Shine, prevailing in a pulsating photo finish with the last three Champion Jockeys separated by a small margin.
Almost 32,000 spectators flocked to Sha Tin for the Season Finale meeting, which brought the Hong Kong term to an end after 88 racedays and 807 races.
Three of Hong Kong’s Champion Jockeys fight out the finish to the last race of the season: 13-time champion Douglas Whyte on Star Shine (red cap) holds off Joao Moreira on Hezthewonforus (purple cap) and Zac Purton on Solar Patch (blue cap), picture Hong Kong Jockey Club