By Hans Ebert
It’s hard to think that he almost didn’t receive his license to train in Hong Kong.There are vague memories of those days when his father Lawrie went to bat for him along with the racing media before the HKJC made a right U-turn and granted Caspar Fownes his trainer’s license. That was for the 2003/4 season. As if to prove that he deserved it, the first runner he sent out won.
Over the years, Cas has proven over and over again that he’s one of the city’s leading trainers with his association with champion sprinter Lucky Nine and that galloper’s string of Group 1 wins probably being the highlight of his career though the successes he had with The Duke and Green Birdie must rate right up there.
There’s another side to the trainer that often goes underrated- the opportunities he gives riders, especially those new to Hong Kong or deserving of more winning rides.
He wasn’t exactly new to Hong Kong at the time, but the year Zac Purton won the Jockey Premiership in the 2012-13 season, the major support for the Aussie rider who rode a century of winners for this season last Wednesday, his major support system came from basically two stables, that of Dennis Yip and Caspar Fownes.
As his stable apprentice, a then-young Vincent CY Ho, got a tremendous leg up to his career by given plenty of opportunities from the Fownes stable. And though now a senior jockey, he still does.
Born in Calcutta and who came to Hong Kong when around 12, Caspar Fownes is a complex character. Fluent in Punjabi and Cantonese, and a master mimic, but despite all the joking while he enjoys his dim sum with huge dollops of chilli sauce, there’s the total professional with the astuteness to get his runners ready for a good, confident wager.
Behind those boyish looks and now well-known pranks like, apparently, secretly taking a different kind of selfie- a picture of his derrière- during track work using the unattended iPhone of another trainer, is someone who takes his job very seriously. Many forget that he’s won three trainer premierships. And the strong brave front he had to put forward to his friends, owners and the public while his father, mentor and best friend Lawrie Fownes battled cancer, and then prepare himself for the last goodbye, was tough to see to those who know Cas.
The man wears his heart on his sleeve. He’s a great father to his three boys and loving husband to his schoolboy crush and now wife Alix, below. and is always there to pick anyone up he cares about when they might be heading down that dark tunnel to nowhere.
Known as The King Of The Valley for his tremendous success with his runners in the city track, Caspar Fownes often travels under the radar, and it’s probably exactly how he wants it. But catch him when he’s relaxed and at a karaoke session, well, be prepared to arm wrestle him for the microphone. He really does believe he’s a combination of Michael Buble and Queen. He’s not. At best, he’s Ric Punjabi.
As for list of Hong Kong’s Top 20 Champion Horses over the past twenty years, here we go…
Fairy King Prawn
Good Ba Ba
Vengeance of Rain
Designs On Rome