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Hong Kong horseman Caspar Fownes is all smiles ahead of Saturday’s 2013 VRC Sprint Classic, formerly the Patinack Farm Classic, at Flemington having been impressed with a Melbourne Cup Day gallop from his star performer Lucky Nine.
A five-time Group 1 champion overseas, seven-year-old Dubawi raider Lucky Nine is one of 14 star sprinters accepted for the $1 million Group 1 VRC Sprint Classic (1200m) on Emirates Stakes Day on the weekend.
Having won the Group 1 KrisFlyer International Sprint (1200m) in Singapore in their final run before heading down under for the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival, Lucky Nine debuted in Australia under the lights at Moonee Valley on October 25.
There they contested the traditional Sprint Classic lead-up, the Group 1 Manikato Stakes (1200m), putting in the run of the race to cross a nose second to the Rob Heathcote-trained Buffering.
With nothing in the finish that night, the early VRC Sprint Classic tip is for Lucky Nine to improve having now had a run on Aussie shores and turn the tables on the Manikato winner when the duo face off again on Saturday.
Fownes tends to agree with that Emirates Stakes Day tip too having travelled to Werribee on Tuesday to watch Brett Prebble put Lucky Nine through his paces in their last serious piece of work before their second run down under.
“He worked really nice. I’m happy, he’s right where I want him and fully fit now,” Fownes told the South China Morning Post having admitted before the Manikato his horse was only 80% fit at that time.
“The only minor hiccup we’ve had was a cut to his left hind leg, which he got in the Manikato and it was right on a joint, which makes it difficult to heal.
“There was a little infection, which required treatment, and when it looked fixed it blew up again a few days later. But look, he’s great, he couldn’t be better now.”
Aussie expat Prebble is the horse’s regular rider in Hong Kong and is back home riding them, as well as a host of other runners, during the coveted carnival where he won last year’s Melbourne Cup with Green Moon.
All going to plan and Fownes will take Lucky Nine back home fort the Longines Hong Kong Sprint on December 8 where they could be vying for a US$1 million bonus should they win the VRC Sprint Classic this Saturday.
Key for the Sprint Classic though will be how Lucky Nine handles the famous Flemington straight, a track type he’s not seen before.
“I’m not worrying too much about that – Lucky Nine handles pretty much anything you throw at him and he was unlucky in one straight-race run,”Fownes said.
“At Sha Tin it’s 1,000m straight race too, which is a bit sharp for him and this is 1,200m.
“They run them differently at Flemington as well – not as fast early as in Hong Kong – so it will give him a chance to get travelling.”
The other major players in this year’s VRC Sprint Classic field include Manikato third placed Sessions for last year’s winning trainer Peter Snowden, Darren Weir’s dual Group 1 winning Adelaide mare Platelet and last start Schillaci Stakes champ Unpretentious.
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