Southern Legend gives Rawiller a treble
Trainer Caspar Fownes believes winner is a horse for the higher grades
Trainer Caspar Fownes had earmarked Southern Legend pre-race as a horse for the higher grades and the gelding lived up to his handler's assertion with an impressive win in the Class 2 Yip Fat Handicap over 1,200m at Happy Valley on Sunday.
The five-year-old, Group 2-placed in Australia pre-import, stormed the home stretch from a deep position in the 12-runner finale, snatching success by a neck under a powerful Nash Rawiller drive.
That effort gave the Australian jockey a treble and Fownes a double at the city track's only Sunday afternoon fixture this term.
"It's nice to get a horse like this to win," said Fownes.
"He's a horse that is just starting to put it all together, so I'm looking forward to getting him back to Sha Tin and getting his rating up - if we can get his rating to 110 in the next race or two, we'll see how we go."
Southern Legend's record now reads two wins from five starts in Hong Kong.
Last time out, the bay went down by a head when conceding 13lb (5.9kg) to Pingwu Spark, a horse many watchers, including Fownes, rate highly.
"His last run was outstanding," said the trainer.
"He chased what I think is a serious horse in Pingwu Spark, giving him a bit of weight. It would be nice for him to draw a gate though - he's got good gate speed and, if he can sit there fourth or fifth, it would make his job a lot easier and we might see what sort of horse he really is.
"That was a big effort today for him to do that against some decent Happy Valley horses."
Rawiller believes he already has a good handle on what sort of horse Southern Legend might become.
"He's a really nice horse and I'd hope he can get a mile," he said, after the 2.8 favourite had swept past Mr Genuine to clock 1min 09.28sec.
"I thought if he could have won the other day he might have gone 1,400 (metres) and then had a chance of getting in the Hong Kong Mile in December.
"He's still probably learning a bit as he goes along. What he's done so far has been on raw ability and he's just got to become rock hard - all the really good horses here have that, they know the ropes and they don't have too many chinks in their armour. I have no doubt he can get to higher levels."
Rawiller sealed a treble on the day, having teamed with the Fownes-trained Mega Heart to take the Class 3 Shum Wan Handicap over 1,000m and with the Richard Gibson-trained Victory Duke in the Class 5 Nam Fung Handicap over 1,200m at odds of 7.9.
"It makes a big difference to your confidence," said Rawiller, after taking his season's tally to 13 winners.
"What makes it good is that I've done some hard yards here - I did have to more or less start at the bottom here but I've always been driven.
"I'm not going to rest on my laurels, I'm starting to make a few inroads and I'm starting to get good support from the crowd, I can hear them, and I get a lot of satisfaction out of that."
Meanwhile, jockey Zac Purton has closed in to within one win of premiership leader Joao Moreira, who is currently serving a suspension, thanks to the Michael Freedman-trained 3.8 favourite Fortune Booth and even-money jolly Thunder Stomp. The score: 24-23.
Fortune Booth's score in the Class 3 Po Chong Wan Handicap over 1,200m was Freedman's first Happy Valley victory and took the handler's first season tally to three from 20 starters, following a brace at Sha Tin on Sept 24. - HKJC