By David Morgan
Caspar Fownes is seeking back-to-back wins in the G3 Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse Handicap (1800m) at Sha Tin on Sunday 1 November, when he is set to unleash last year’s winner Southern Legend alongside the rejuvenated Dances With Dragon.
The latter was a revelation last term, bagging four wins from six starts following a mid-season transfer from the Peter Ho stable. That run of form lifted the seven-year-old 30 points in the ratings, to a mark of 113, and the Savabeel gelding has shown his handler in two outings this campaign that he might not be done with his rise just yet.
“It was a really good run last time in the (G2) Sha Tin Trophy,” Fownes said of Dances With Dragon’s running-on fifth to Golden Sixty. “But this is the race I’ve really targeted for him!
“He’s come up a long way in the ratings in a short period of time but he appears to me that he actually might be able to go up to Group 2 and be close to Group 1 level, the way he’s been racing.”
Dances With Dragon will find himself with a burden of only 117lb when he lines up in the weekend feature against Hong Kong’s Horse of the Year Exultant (133lb), with Fownes’ charge seeking to add a second G3 score to his resume following a course and distance success in the Premier Plate Handicap (1800m) back in June, under Sunday’s partner Keith Yeung.
Dances With Dragon races away with the G3 Premier Plate Handicap.
“These conditions are going to be right in his favour, getting the sixteen pounds off the big champion. I’ve drawn a bit awkward with both my horses, which is a bit unfortunate, but we’ll see how the race pans out, let them find their own spots and hopefully we’ll get a winning result,” Fownes said.
The early trainers’ premiership leader is also looking ahead to December’s LONGINES Hong Kong International Races for the galloper whose handicap mark at one time dipped to 71.
“This race will tell us where we are and then, if he pulls up well, the plan is to go to the Jockey Club Cup over 2000 metres next month, and then we’ll make a decision about where we want to go with him on the big day. Obviously, we want to see what’s going to happen with the overseas horses because there’s so much talent, on paper, that’s supposedly coming but whether or not that eventuates, we’ll have to see,” Fownes said.
“We’ll put ourselves in the position to win some prize money and if we snag the win, we’ll be very happy.”
Southern Legend (third) and Dances With Dragon (fifth) close off behind Golden Sixty.
Southern Legend (129lb) will attempt to claim the historic Ladies’ Purse for a second time, having also bagged a career peak win late last season in the G1 FWD Champions Mile, in which he held off Beauty Generation in an epic tussle.
“The old boy is in good form – he’s eight years old but you wouldn’t know it, he’s healthy in the coat, he’s a happy horse and he won the race last year. I still think he’s versatile enough to continue and snag another big one for us this season,” Fownes said of the stalwart galloper, a two-time winner of the SIN G1 Kranji Mile.
“The plan is this race and then look at the options of the 2000 metres or back to the mile, it doesn’t matter. At this stage the mile looks a one horse race with Golden Sixty, so we’ll see what happens and look at the realistic options.
“It gets tougher as you get older but I’m happy with his preparation and he certainly looks a treat, and I’m sure he’ll give a good account of himself.”
The 13-runner contest also features another G1-winning past Ladies’ Purse victor, Time Warp (122lb), as well as 2019 BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) winner Furore (122lb).