Fownes hopes Legend can enter LONGINES Hong Kong International Races reckoning
Southern Legend enters the G2 BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Sprint (1200m) as something of a dark horse, but trainer Caspar Fownes hopes that the five-year-old can announce his arrival among Hong Kong’s equine elite with a solid performance on Sunday.
“He’s being thrown right into the deep end, but in my heart I believe he’ll beat a few horses home,” Fownes said at Sha Tin on Tuesday morning (14 November). “Obviously, he’s right down the bottom of the ratings in a set weights race, which isn’t ideal, but his work this morning was very nice. He’s a horse that we don’t actually know what his true rating is – he’s on 102 now but in time, he could be anything.
“So we are testing the waters, seeing how far away he is from them and we’ll just play it by ear after this race.”
Southern Legend booked his spot in the key G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) lead-up with a barnstorming last-to-first Class 2 win over 1200m at Happy Valley on 29 October.
Southern Legend scores a strong last-to-first win in a Class 2 race over 1200m at Happy Valley last start, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
Since 2012, three other winners of that same Class 2 have gone on to contest the Jockey Club Sprint: Sunday’s rival Peniaphobia completed the double in 2014, Time After Time finished second to Fownes-trained Lucky Nine in 2012 and Strathmore was sixth behind Gold-Fun in 2015.
“I’ve seen it many times before where horses in the low 100s can come out and produce a shock result,” Fownes said. “I’m not expecting that at this stage but we can always dream. To be honest, I’d be disappointed if he doesn’t run midfield in a race like this, against horses that are far higher rated than him. So I’m looking for a nice performance with promise for the future.
“He’s done nothing wrong since he’s been here. He’s going the right way, he’s heading up in the ratings, so now’s our chance to see where we stand. If he runs a bottler, we might think about going towards the internationals, but if not, we’ll certainly look at the 1400m Class 1 on international day – that race would be perfect for him.”
Jockey Sam Clipperton has been booked for his first ride aboard Southern Legend, but says he has long kept an eye on the Not A Single Doubt gelding from afar.
“I remember watching Southern Legend coming through the grades in Sydney when I was still down there,” Clipperton said. “I rode against him a few times, but he was always Timmy Clark’s ride!
“He’s obviously a very good horse and he was always one that showed he had that ability in Australia. He’s on an upward spiral so even though he has a tough assignment on Sunday, he is going places very quickly so this could be that first step.”
Southern Legend is the lowest-rated of 11 entries for the Jockey Club Sprint. G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m) winner Lucky Bubbles hauls 128lb, with the remainder of the field – including last-start G2 Premier Bowl Handicap (1200m) winner Mr Stunning, highly-touted Thewizardofoz and previous Jockey Club Sprint victors Not Listenin’tome and Peniaphobia – carrying 123lb.
The Jockey Club Sprint is one of three prep races on Sunday’s card for the LONGINES Hong Kong International Races on 10 December, with the G2 BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Mile and the G2 BOCHK Jockey Club Cup (2000m) also on the programme.