Hong Kong: After Classique Legend finished only third in his first Sha Tin barrier trial on Tuesday [Dec 1], trainer Caspar Fownes warned that the hot favourite has not had the ideal preparation for the Hong Kong Sprint on December 13.
The formerly Australian-trained five-year-old is even-money with Ladbrokes to add to his laurels in the G1 event at Sha Tin’s Longines-sponsored Hong Kong International Races, in which Vincent Ho is set to pick up the ride after Kerrin McEvoy opted to stay at home owing to quarantine procedures.
“With the uncertainty on travel back to Australia, I’ve decided to forgo my ride on Classique Legend in Hong Kong next Sunday,” McEvoy said on Wednesday, speaking to AAP Racing.
However, after Classique Legend had his first barrier trial on the turf, Fownes advised caution with the HK$22 million (£2.13m) race in mind.
“Obviously he’s a bit rusty and he hasn’t had an ideal prep as I have been saying,” said Fownes, who leads the current Hong Kong trainers’ premiership. “I’m just doing the best I possibly can considering the time frame I have.”
Classique Legend arrived in Hong Kong last month after leaving Les Bridge, who trained him to win the Everest, the world’s richest turf race, at Randwick on October 17. In his 1,000-metre trial, the gelding settled at the rear under Vincent Ho before crossing the line third behind Sky Field and Assimilate in a time of 58.67s.
“The trial was acceptable,” said Fownes, speaking to the Hong Kong Jockey Club media team. “It’s the first time he has been down the straight and he just picked up nice, did his job – he came back nice and we’ll scope him and make sure everything is A1 over there.
“He just looked from the 100m mark to the post that he would put them away but he just ground off a little bit, which obviously, his fitness will improve for that,” Fownes added.
After the Everest, HK-based owner Boniface Ho immediately signalled his intention to switch Classique Legend and he spent three weeks in quarantine at the Werribee International Horse Centre before flying to Hong Kong on November 9.
“Everything has been a rush – it hasn’t been ideal,” said three-time HK champion Fownes. “I know everyone is watching from around the world and they think it’s easy but it doesn’t work like that.
“The horse has to come in here, have a vaccination, he’s also been sedated for freeze-branding and he was only cantering at Werribee. I took no chances with him because I’m not there on the ground,” Fownes said.
“But all excuses aside, if he is the best and even if I present him at 85-90% he should be good enough – but like anything you just have to hope they come here and adapt as soon as possible.”
“I’m still learning about the horse – the preparation this horse has had, he’s come to me at the end of his prep, they built him up for the big grand swansong and they got the job done and I’ve just got to come in and try and pinch one more race before I freshen him up,” Fownes said.
Although Fownes had earlier confirmed that Everest-winning jockey McEvoy would maintain his partnership with Classique Legend, racing.com reported on Wednesday that quarantine procedures meant the jockey had opted to stay at home.
If McEvoy were to go to Hong Kong, he would need to undergo a 14-day quarantine period on return to Australia, thereby having to stay in a hotel for Christmas.
This story has been updated with the news about Kerrin McEvoy.
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