Caspar Fownes ended a dry spell stretching back to 18 December with a double at Happy Valley on Wednesday night that owed plenty to the skill and confidence of jockey Vincent Ho.
“I’d forgotten what it’s like,” Fownes quipped after Ho had sealed the brace for his old boss aboard Shamport – fresh off a spell at Conghua – in race three, the Class 4 Shing Yip Handicap (1200m).
“He’s a horse that, truthfully speaking has been quite disappointing,” Fownes admitted. “On his form in Australia he looked like he’d be at least an 80 or 80-plus horse in Hong Kong but he just never came up to what he looked like he was going to be.
“It was a lovely ride again by Vincent – it’s wonderful to see my old apprentice ride some winners for me and ride with so much confidence. He got him in a beautiful position from the draw (gate seven), which was a bit tricky and did his job nicely in the end.”
Ho kicked off the night with a sharp tactical move in the opener, the Class 5 Yue Man Handicap (2200m). The rider had his mount Sky Gem at the tail after a slow start but the pedestrian pace up front prompted a rapid, field-skirting move to lead with 650m to race – the Fownes-trained four-year-old forged on to land a first win by two and three-quarter lengths.
“The horse had been racing quite well and dropping down in the ratings off some quite good runs,” Fownes noted.
“I said to Vincent it looked a race devoid of speed and I said ‘the horse is rock hard fit so if the sectionals are slow down the back, you take off’. He rated him beautifully and it was a winning move.”
Fownes and Ho were denied a rapid treble in race four, section two of the Class 4 Wai Yip Handicap (1650m). Ho had the lead halfway down the straight on the Fownes-trained Royal Racer but had to settle for second when Joao Moreira delivered the Frankie Lor-trained Flash Famous on a revving run to win by half a length.
Flash Famous was another winner off a Conghua prep, as was Very Sweet Orange who scraped home in the Class 4 Mut Wah Handicap (1000m) to move Alfred Chan to within one win of reducing his 10lb claim. The apprentice set the pace on the Me Tsui-trained galloper who put his nose down just at the right moment to hold on by a short-head and another short-head from the closing Dr Proactive and Winner’s Heart.
Premiership leader Moreira made it a double and took his season’s tally to 61 when the John Size-trained Dor Dor closed late off a rail run to nab runner-up Starlit Knight and land section one of the Wai Yip Handicap (1650m) at odds of 1.9.
Silvestre de Sousa and trainer Manfred Man teamed up to score with Compassion Star in the Class 4 Shing Yip Handicap (1200m), the six-year-old’s fourth win from 27 starts.
The night’s finale, section two of the Class 3 Hoi Yuen Handicap (1200m), went to the Benno Yung-trained Hinchinlove who, under Derek Leung, notched his first Hong Kong win at the 18th attempt.
Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin on Monday, 27 January, with the first race set for noon.
Shamport and Vincent Ho, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club