Caspar Fownes could have the strongest hand of any trainer in January’s Hong Kong Classic Mile as smart four-year-olds Sky Darci and Enrich Delight came to the fore at Sha Tin this afternoon (Sunday, 29 November).
Sky Darci made a big statement with victory in the Class 1 Chevalier Cup Handicap (1600m), the day’s feature, and he did so at his first try in the grade following two Class 3 successes over 1200m at the city circuit.
“He was held up at a crucial stage of the race when everyone else had momentum, it’s tough to do what he did today – it’s gutsy,” Fownes said. “He did it because he wants to do it, he’s got a bit of spunk about him.”
The Darci Brahma gelding successfully made his first attempt at the mile a winning one and he did it in style, with a gritty triumph to maintain his unbeaten sequence this term as the HK$12 million first leg of the three-race age restricted series beckons on 24 January, 2021.
“He’ll have a bit of a freshen up now, he’s done very well – I’ll look at the program, whether he has one run before the Classic Mile or not I’ll decide later but right now he’s done a great job for us and I’m very happy for the owners,” Fownes said.
The talented four-year-old has gone from strength-to-strength this term and today handled an 11-point rating rise to win and now could find himself stamped with a triple figure rating.
“I felt the horse has got it well within his compass to go to the mile and even further, because what he was doing at Happy Valley he was just doing on his raw ability,” Fownes said.
“It’s pretty tough to go straight from a Class 3 to a Class 1 but I just felt we had the right horse to give us the chance to do it – up in class but down in weight and a horse that is in really top form so you have to take a chance.
“Especially considering it is his four-year-old year and you hope that they’re good enough to mix it with those type of horses and now he’s proven that he can, so he’s certainly earned his way in the Four-Year-Old Classic Series now,” Fownes said.
Joao Moreira settled the New Zealand-bred on the rail close to the speed, a hapless run in the straight followed before he knuckled down under the Brazilian’s urgings for a narrow score ahead of fellow Classic Series prospect, Lucky Express (115lb).
“He gave me the feel that he could do it when he won last start at Happy Valley – he has a high enough rating to go into the Four-Year-Old Classic Series with the reputation of being a nice horse, he’s no doubt going to go there with a good winning chance,” Moreira said.
Fownes drew comparisons to Green Birdie, who won the Hong Kong Derby Trial in 2008 over 1800m, the race now known as the Hong Kong Classic Cup and is the second-leg of the series.
“We’ve had a great season so far with him (Sky Darci) it looked to be quite strong through the line – I won the Classic Cup over 1800 metres with a sprinter in Green Birdie and this guy has much better staying ability than him,” Fownes said."
“When you’re at your four-year-old year you can get away with certain things because you’re up against the same age group,” he added.
Sky Darci was bred by M W Freeman & D G Price and is from the O'Reilly mare, Strictly Maternal.
He was sold at the New Zealand Premier Sale in 2018 to Mr B Kwan for $160,000 from the draft of Highden Park.
-Declan Shuster, Hong Kong Jockey Club