Sky Darci snares Group 3 Lion Rock Trophy

Caspar Fownes regained the trainers’ championship lead and celebrated the successful race-track return of BMW Hong Kong Derby winner Sky Darci in one fell swoop with a pivotal treble, crowned by G3 Lion Rock Trophy Handicap glory (1600m), at Sha Tin on Sunday (30 May).

Trailing John Size by two winners entering the meeting, Fownes climbed back to the front – 66-65 – with a three-timer to leave the 2020/21 championship balanced on a knife’s edge with 12 meetings left in the season.

Vincent Ho ended a relatively barren month in style with a four-timer, closing the meeting in style on David Hayes’ newcomer Naboo Attack, who made light of his 1360lb frame to claim a HK$1 million High Achievement Bonus on debut.

The highlight for Fownes was Sky Darci’s resumption after a 10-week break, culminating in a short head victory over fellow four-year-old Health Happy. Not Usual Talent was third, one and three-quarter lengths further back.

“On paper it looked a nice comeback race for him, 115 (pounds) on his back and a nice soft draw (barrier three). He landed in the spot we thought he would be, just relaxed and came out and you can see what he’s got,” Fownes said after Sky Darci withstood a fierce challenge from Healthy Happy, who lifted bravely after being headed by the winner.

“Obviously the second horse (Healthy Happy) is a horse we respected coming into the race because we didn’t think there was much pace and obviously, he gave us quite a scare the last 100m.

“He’s a nice horse, the second horse. He’s probably one that’s going to go on with it.

“At the end of the day, we’re very happy to bring him back from the Derby. There’s always pressure on you to get these horses to come back and perform.”

Sky Darci’s latest triumph leaves Fownes with a host of long-range options beyond a possible start in the G3 Premier Cup Handicap (1400m) – including a potential tilt at the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) in December.

“It looks like we’ve got something to work with going forward to December. He’s a good horse and he’s probably still got another length and a half to two lengths in him over the next 12 months. If he can do that, all of sudden he’s a serious and proper horse,” Fownes said, hinting at taking a path which avoids clashing with Golden Sixty over a mile.

“He’s a sprinter-miler in my mind and he’s showing us that, so we’ll just try to pick the best possible options and avoid the champions.

“He’ll come back to have a 1200 metre run early in the (2021/22) season, so we’ll just see what he does there. He’s versatile and he should be a bigger and better horse with a couple of months of the summer break under his belt.”

Fownes said the G3 Premier Cup could involve Sky Darci clashing with stablemate Sky Field.

“There’s a good chance (he will run), it just depends on how he pulls up. Sky Field will go there as well, so it will be nice to see them taking on each other if I go that route.

“We’ll just see how he pulls up, the weather is getting quite warm now, but if he’s well and he’s eating up well and he’s got a spring in his step there’s no reason he can’t have one more race,” Fownes said.

-Leo Schlink
Hong Kong Jockey Club


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