Caspar Fownes hopeful Galaxy Witness can fire in Hong Kong Classic Cup

Leo Schlink

23/02/2023 15:14

Galaxy Witness is a four-time winner in Hong Kong.
Galaxy Witness is a four-time winner in Hong Kong.

Teaming with Blake Shinn in pursuit of more elite race success, Caspar Fownes hopes Galaxy Witness can defy stamina concerns and return to winning company with success in the HK$12 million Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (26 February).

Anointed as a future star while posting four successive wins from 1000m-1400m last season, Galaxy Witness has remained winless in seven subsequent attempts – a sequence containing four minor placings – but Fownes retains telling faith.

“He’s certainly got the ability to mix it with that type of horse in the Four-Year-Old Classic series. He’s definitely in that range – no problem – but now we just have to see if he runs out the trip strong,” Fownes said as he bids for his first Hong Kong Classic Cup success since Green Birdie’s 2008 triumph.

Pointing to Galaxy Witness’ surging fifth behind Voyage Bubble in a leader-dominated Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m) on 29 January, Fownes said the Star Witness gelding’s race-best last 400m sectional of 22.58s underlined building form.

“He’s been racing really well. I hope he gets his chance. We’ve got Blake Shinn coming into ride him. His last run was good with a nice closing sectional, which is want you want to see over the mile. Obviously, now to 1800 metres, it’s a big test for us,” Fownes said.

Fownes and Shinn shared G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) victory with Sky Field in 2021.

Galaxy Witness will jump from 11, while Voyage Bubble and Jamie Kah have drawn gate six. Tuchel (Zac Purton) has barrier one, alongside Keefy and Derek Leung in gate two. Sword Point will start from barrier 13 under Hugh Bowman, while Beautyverse has the extreme outside stall of 14 for James McDonald.

Manfred Man will saddle Encountered in the Hong Kong Classic Cup.
Manfred Man will saddle Encountered in the Hong Kong Classic Cup.

In the midst of a stellar season with 24 wins so far, Manfred Man hopes Encountered can prove his quality under Silvestre de Sousa in the Hong Kong Classic Cup despite drawing barrier nine.

“It’s a strong field in this race. If he can be fourth or fifth in the run that would be great,” Man said of the Churchill gelding, who has won two of his past three starts at Happy Valley.

“I’m not sure about 1800 metres at Sha Tin because of the long straight, but his form is very good and I hope he can run well again. He is racing well.”

The Hong Kong Classic Cup is the second leg of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series, which culminates with the HK$24 million BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) at Sha Tin on 19 March.

Golden Sixty and Romantic Warrior figure in a Group 1 rematch on Sunday.
Golden Sixty and Romantic Warrior figure in a Group 1 rematch on Sunday.

Golden Sixty and Romantic Warrior predictably dominate the line-up for this Sunday’s HK$12 million G1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m), marking the second time the BMW Hong Kong Derby winners have clashed.

Golden Sixty took the honours at the pair’s first encounter with a crushing display in the G1 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) at Sha Tin on 29 January, but Vincent Ho and Francis Lui are acutely aware this weekend’s 2000 metre assignment notionally tilts the scales towards Romantic Warrior, whose two Group 1 scalps – the FWD QEII Cup and LONGINES Hong Kong Cup – came in spectacular fashion at 2000m.

The champion duo will face five other rivals on Sunday – Tourbillon Diamond, Ka Ying Star, Money Catcher, Glorious Dragon and Panfield.

Summing up the magnitude of toppling Golden Sixty and Romantic Warrior, Glorious Dragon’s trainer Pierre Ng said: “Compared to Golden Sixty and Romantic Warrior, it’s just about impossible (to beat them). We’re hoping Glorious Dragon can run third or fourth and get some prizemoney.

“If we can have a good run and run third and fourth, the owner will be very happy. He ran very well second up and hopefully this time he’s fitter and I hope he can get closer to them.”

Sunday’s (26 February) 10-race card at Sha Tin starts with the Class 4 Citi Global Wealth Handicap (1650m, dirt) at 1pm.

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