Columbus County steps up

Trainer Caspar Fownes is focusing on Sunday’s Group Two Hong Kong Jockey Club races in which he has three horses entered for two of the trio of Group Two contests, including Columbus County (NZ) (Redwood), who is entered for the HK$4.5 million Jockey Club Cup off the back of an eye-catching first-up win at the Happy Valley.

“This Sunday is a big step-up for him, he’s proving to me though that he has the ability to finish inside the top four even though he is out of the ratings, but the way he is, he doesn’t know what his rating is, he’s still well below where I think he is going to get to,” Fownes said.

The Redwood gelding was one of the main contenders going into last season’s BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m), posting three smart runner-up efforts before a disappointing ninth in the blue riband to Golden Sixty (Medaglia d’Oro). But he did close out last term with a strong win, his first in Hong Kong, in an 1800m Class 2 at Sha Tin.

This season, the bay has returned in excellent form and Fownes has big expectations for the New Zealand-import, who this time will pair with leading local hoop Vincent Ho.

“I’ll be hoping for a first four finish and he’s the type of horse who can run up to 2400 metres – we have something to work with,” Fownes said.

Fownes has also entered Dances With Dragon (NZ) (Savabeel), last season’s Gr.3 Premier Plate Handicap (1800m) winner, with Keith Yeung booked to ride.

“He’s racing out of his skin, he’s racing really well, his sectionals have always been good and I just hope we can get a soft draw with him where we just don’t have to drag back all the time,” Fownes said.

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