CLSA CLSA Capital Partners

SCMP

Stable Mail a sentimental victor
Fownes pays tribute to late owner and pleads for dirt rethink

16 November 2006

Caspar Fownes used the occasion of Stable Mail's impressive third Hong Kong win to lobby the Jockey Club to review its position on the programming Class One races on the all-weather track.

Stable Mail ($37.50 favourite) was not only a popular winner with the players but a sentimental one, too, coming less than two weeks after the death of owner Gary Coull, 52, after a battle with cancer.

" Gary had only been a client of the stable for just over a year but in that time we had become very good mates," Fownes said. "We'd get together every six weeks or so and had a game of poker, which he really loved. We enjoyed each other's company.

Felix Coetzee is a happy winner aboard dirt specialist Stable Mail. He is eligible for Class One but there are no races for him. Photo: Kenneth Chan

"He had a real soft spot for this horse and it was wonderful that his wife, and family and friends, were here tonight and could enjoy the horse winning. They've told me to just keep on, business as usual, because that is what Gary would have wanted."

But keeping on, as per the family's instructions, is not so straightforward now. Stable Mail won this Class Two Dallas Handicap off a rating of 96 and is now eligible for Class One. Not a problem for turf horses but a real issue for an all-weather specialist, because there are no Class One races programmed on the artificial surface.

"I really think the Jockey Club should revisit its position on this because dirt racing is a necessary fact of life in Hong Kong racing," Fownes said. "Two tracks cannot cope with the wear and tear of 100 per cent use. They need some relief and the all-weather track provides that.

"But if you are going to stage a dirt-racing product, you need some stars to promote it and I think it is such a shame to nurture horses like this to become the best dirt horses and then, one day, say `sorry, no more for you'."

Fownes said he believed racing fans would respond positively. "Give them the best in any sport, and the fans appreciate it," he said. "Promote it like it's special and the fans will come."

Fownes' sole victory on the soggy eight-event card took him to 18 wins on the trainers' premiership and increased his lead to seven over Tony Cruz and Dennis Yip Chor-hong, who were winless, while Paul O'Sullivan leapfrogged them into second place with the win of Made In Hongkong.

Handled by Olivier Doleuze, Made in Hongkong made a one-act affair of the Philadelphia Handicap (1,650 metres) for Class Five horses, registering his third win from 42 starts.

David Ferraris kept his new-season scoreboard ticking over nicely with a double in successive races with Gaucho (Marco Chui Kwan-lai) and King Hesperus (Manoel Nunes). It was the second leg of a double for Brazilian Nunes, who scored earlier on Master Able for Gary Ng Ting-keung.

The victory of King Hesperus was particularly satisfying for the trainer because the gelding is owned by former Jockey Club chairman Ronald Arculli.

"No, I didn't back him," Arculli assured the press scrum that packed around him with the inevitability of an eastern sunrise in the wake of the win.

"David thought he had him going well, and that he had a good chance, but it's taken him a long time [16 starts] and I was just happy to see him win one. Hopefully the handicapper won't be too impressed and he might be able to get away with another one."

Ferraris, while delighted at his two-timer, was looking forward eagerly to the weekend when his stable star Vengeance of Rain will take on the best milers available in the Mile Trial at Sha Tin on Sunday.

MURRAY BELL

© 2006 www.garycoull.com. All rights reserved.