Caspar Fownes is putting his faith in Columbus County (NZ) (Redwood) to put down a Group One marker in the Class 2 Time Warp Handicap (1800m) at Happy Valley on Wednesday.
“We’ll make an entry for the Hong Kong International Races with him,” the handler said. “He’s rated 97 but hopefully that’ll change after the race on Wednesday.”
Fownes knows Columbus County will need to lift his rating to around 110 or higher to warrant an invitation to the HK$95 million LONGINES Hong Kong International Races on 13 December, but his charge proved last season that he is a stayer on the rise, lifting his rating by 15 points to a mark of 97 across seven starts.
The Redwood gelding was one of the main protagonists for last season’s BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m), posting three smart runner-up efforts before finishing a disappointing ninth in the blue riband to Golden Sixty. He closed out last term with a strong win, his first in Hong Kong, in an 1800m Class 2 at Sha Tin.
“I’m very happy with him, he’s got a lovely draw (gate one) and he’ll get his chance but he is obviously up against horses who are a little bit more race-fit than him,” Fownes said.
The five-year-old kicks off his campaign against 11 opponents, including familiar foes from his age bracket in the likes of Reliable Team (131lb), Enjoying (128lb) and Amazing Beats (119lb). The New Zealand-bred will step away from gate one with three-time champion jockey Joao Moreira in the plate.
“He’s done alright, his body weight is 1048 pounds, he’s around the 1030-pound mark when normally he races so I’m happy with him first-up. I’ve got him where I want him and I’m sure he’ll get a good run,” Fownes said.
“He’s shown us that he’s the type of horse that can produce a big effort first-up as he did last season running behind Golden Sixty with some massive sectionals late over 1400 metres,
“The 1800 metres looks to be his trip for a first-up effort and he looks to the type of horse that’ll get further and again I’m pretty confident he’s a horse that will get above 110.”
Columbus County finished third in the Gr.2 Waikato Guineas (2000m) at Te Rapa racecourse pre-import when racing as Sword in Stone. The winner of that race is now under the care of Jimmy Ting and is known as Hello Daddy, a Class 3 winner over the mile in Hong Kong, while fellow Fownes-trained Arrogant split the pair in second and also finished runner-up in the G1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m) to five-time G1 winner, The Autumn Sun.
Fownes has faith in Columbus County’s ability to stay, suggesting a tilt at the HK$3.5 million Gr.3 Queen Mother Memorial Cup Handicap (2400m) might also be on the cards down the line.
“He’s the type of horse that I’d certainly think would be very competitive in a Queen Mother Memorial Cup toward the end of the season,” Fownes said.