Caspar Fownes poses for the media following his memorable milestone at Happy Valley. Photo by HKJC.

Euphoric Fownes celebrates 800th Hong Kong success

By Andrew Hawkins, HKJC.



Caspar Fownes has achieved plenty during his 15-year career – three Hong Kong premierships, multiple Group 1 wins, Derby success, international glory – but the trainer admitted there was something particularly special about a humble Class 4 event that brought up his 800th Hong Kong winner at Happy Valley tonight (Wednesday, 26 September).

E Master dashed home from the clouds under jockey Sam Clipperton to claim the first section of the Class 4 Nam Fung Handicap (1200m), providing Fownes with his 800th triumph. The handler’s cries and cheers could be heard right across the city circuit as Fownes celebrated the win with son Ryan.

“It’s wonderful, it’s difficult to get so many winners in Hong Kong with the handicap system we have here,” a beaming Fownes said. “It can be tough managing stable size and strength, so to have that number as a reflection of success is fantastic. I’m not done yet, though; I’m still looking ahead to 1000 and beyond. I’m still chasing John Size a bit!”


Caspar Fownes scores his 800th Hong Kong win with E Master.

Caspar Fownes scores his 800th Hong Kong win with E Master.

He continued: “It’s a big number in Hong Kong, eight is a number of such importance in Chinese culture. Of course, not too many trainers have hit that number here so it’s definitely something that means a lot to me. I’ve still got plenty of years on my side too so hopefully it will only increase.”

Fownes now sits fourth in the list of current Hong Kong trainers, behind John Moore (1604), Tony Cruz (1179) and John Size (1135) – all who have had Sha Tin stables longer than the India-born handler, who took over from his father Lawrie at the beginning of the 2003/04 season.


E Master sweeps home under Sam Clipperton to score fresh.
E Master sweeps home under Sam Clipperton to score fresh.


For Clipperton, it was a milestone of a different import. The Australian rider has struggled to pick up rides in his third term in Hong Kong, but with a first win for the season under his belt and an exciting booking locked in for Size’s BMW Hong Kong Derby winner Ping Hai Star in Monday’s (1 October) G3 Celebration Cup Handicap (1400m), the tide appears to be turning.

“It’s been a bit of a slog to get going this season, but I’m getting my fitness back and I’m feeling good,” Clipperton said. “You could say I’ve had a bit of a John Size start to my season, starting slow but hopefully increasing. I’m grateful to Caspar and his owners for this opportunity and that was a very nice win from E Master.”

First win for Size with sights set on 11th title

Size himself, fresh off his 10th trainers’ championship last season, has had a typically quiet start to the season so far. However, with October fast approaching, he brought up his first win for the term tonight when Country Star raced clear for a dominant success in the second section of the Nam Fung Handicap at just his second career start.

Country Star had stamped himself as a promising talent when finishing fourth on debut over the Happy Valley 1000m. Tonight, rider Zac Purton produced a centimetre-perfect ride; the reigning Champion Jockey tracked up behind the speed on the rail, pulled him over heels upon straightening and the Starcraft three-year-old sprinted clear for an effortless three and a quarter length success.


Country Star opens his Hong Kong account in style.

Country Star opens his Hong Kong account in style.


“A horse with a future who gets an inside gate on the C+3 track and follows the leader? He really should win like that,” Size said. “So he’s done what is expected of him and that’s all that you can expect from the horse at his second start in a race.

“I’m not sure how talented he is, it’s impossible to know with where he is currently – in the middle of Class 4 as an early three-year-old – but you couldn’t be pessimistic about his future at the moment. Very few horses can do that, he’s done it, so now we can look ahead for a similar scenario race.”

The Champion Trainer-Champion Jockey pairing then made it a quickfire double when Red Warrior took the feature, the Class 3 Hong Kong Country Club Challenge Cup Handicap (1650m). A winner of three races in England when named Rusper, Red Warrior proved dominant at his second Hong Kong start, scoring by a length and a half.


Trainer Francis Lui also tasted success with Sparkling Sword taking the Class 4 Tai Shue Wan Handicap (1650m), courtesy of a well-judged front-running ride from apprentice Matthew Poon.

“Hopefully, that proves to be a good omen!” Lui said ahead of his departure for Tokyo, where he will saddle up Lucky Bubbles in the G1 Sprinters Stakes (1200m) at Nakayama on Sunday (30 September).

Poon produced a second stellar ride from the front when he guided the Michael Freedman-trained Sparkling Dragon to victory in the closer, the second section of the Class 3 Wong Chuk Hang Handicap (1200m).

“He is only four now and I think he’s still improving,” Poon said. “We saw him show talent last season, but I think now is when you are starting to see the best of him – and in six months, I think he might even make it up to Class 2.”

Racing resumes at Sha Tin on National Day (Monday, 1 October), with the G3 National Day Cup Handicap (1000m) and the G3 Celebration Cup Handicap (1400m) headlining the meeting.