By Andrew Hawkins
Trainer Caspar Fownes believes that his two runners in Wednesday night’s (31 May) Class 2 Cafeteria Handicap (1650m), Vanilla and Gonna Run, have both “done their jobs” for the season but he is hopeful that one of them may be able to snare another victory at the final all-dirt meeting for the term.
One-time G1 Australian Derby (2400m) runner-up Vanilla (126lb) has found a new lease of life on the Sha Tin all-weather track this season. While he had proven adept on the surface before with four dirt track wins in his first 46 local starts, he has strung together a three-win streak on the inner circuit at his last three outings – a 10-length romp in Class 4 followed by two easy successes against Class 3 company.
“He’s alright, Vanilla, he’s fit and well,” Fownes said. “It’s going to be a very tough ask for him to be winning. He’s done his job already with four wins this season and 1650m is a touch on the sharp side but he looks well, he’s comfortable and rock-hard fit so we just have to keep him happy.
“It looks a tough race for him, but he’s going to be competitive because that’s what he’s become – he’s very honest and consistent on this surface.”
Hong Kong’s leading rider Joao Moreira, who has a strike rate of 40 per cent for Fownes this season with 18 wins from 45 runners, takes his first ride on the Host seven-year-old, replacing the suspended Zac Purton. The chestnut will jump from gate six.
Directly outside him in barrier seven is stablemate Gonna Run (121lb), with Vincent Ho maintaining his association with the six-year-old.
“Gonna Run will run well,” he said. “He worked home nicely on the dirt earlier in the season when Sam (Clipperton) rode him, he only got beaten three lengths. That’s been him though, he’s been hitting the line every race. He just gets too far back and then runs home in a good sectional, he’s never beaten far either.
“He’s been leaving the gates better too in recent starts, so if he’s not out the back but instead sitting in a decent position, even midfield, he will be competitive for sure. However, he’s another that has done his job. He won the Class 1 earlier in the season and it’s hard to win a race here, especially up against those horses. Hopefully he will acquit himself well.”
Gonna Run is owned by Siu Pak Kwan, with Vanilla racing for Siu’s son Edmond. The patriarch’s other son, Martin, is also represented in the Class 2 affair by Tony Cruz-trained Time Warp (120lb), who will be ridden by Callan Murray.
Also in the 10-runner field are last start course and distance winners Little Dragon (126lb) and King Genki (122lb), while People’s Knight (129lb), Friends Of Ka Ying (125lb), Solar Hei Hei (125lb), What Else But You (123lb) and Inventor (118lb) complete the line-up.
The Class 2 Cafeteria Handicap is scheduled as the seventh of eight races and is due to jump at 10:20pm, with the opener, the Class 4 Pui O Handicap (1800m), beginning the card at 7:15pm.
Vanilla made it a hat-trick of wins last start over 1800m on the Sha Tin all-weather track.
Gonna Run (inside) claimed the Chevalier Cup earlier this season.