Sky Field (Deep Field) made a big statement before the break between seasons and this Sunday at Sha Tin he readies for his return in the Class 3 Hung Hom Handicap (1200m), with the Four-Year-Old Classic Series on his radar.
“It’s a big season for him, so I’m treating him like a horse with a lot of potential and the type of horse that I would train for the Hong Kong Classic Mile – that’s my target with him this season, so he’ll be progressing distance-wise,” trainer Caspar Fownes said.
The progressive four-year-old, who was purchased out of Trelawney Stud’s 2018 New Zealand Bloodstock Book 1 draft, displayed an electrifying turn-of-foot at Sha Tin on the final day of last season to lay down a marker as one of Hong Kong’s most exciting up-and-coming gallopers. That effort resulted in a 14-point rise in the ratings.
“He’s done really well between seasons, I haven’t trialled him for his upcoming start because he’s got that residual fitness from the end of last season and he’s had a couple of pieces of work on the grass; I think I’ve got him pretty much where I want him for his first-up run,” Fownes said.
The Deep Field youngster has one win from three starts now after destroying his rivals over 1200m, the same distance he contests this weekend against 10 others. He will break from gate eight with three-time champion jockey Joao Moreira in the plate.
“I’m still learning about the horse himself as I have only been on him once at the races but what impressed me the most was his acceleration in the straight, that’s what it takes for a good horse to go to the Classic Mile and be competitive,” Moreira said.
The chestnut gelding put leg problems behind him earlier this year and since then has gone from strength-to-strength but Fownes indicated that he is still a work in progress, especially as he heads towards the HK$12 million age-restricted mile contest.
“He’s had a couple of niggling issues which we’ve just tried to look after and nurse him along,” Fownes said.
“It’s a little bit of a tricky barrier but he’s got to learn to race – he’s still inexperienced, he still needs to know how to race, so he’ll just go back and we’ll teach him again and if he gets one or two races wrong through the prep that’s part of his learning process.
“The one thing that he does have is an explosive turn-of-foot and once he really gets to know what his job is, I think then you’ll see a pretty handy horse after the next couple of starts.”
The handler last tasted Hong Kong Classic Mile success in 2011 with his subsequent globetrotting star sprinter Lucky Nine.
Sunday’s contest sets up an interesting clash against another rising talent, Inner Flame (Zoustar). The Douglas Whyte-trained galloper is a four-time winner from five starts – incurring a 28-point rating-rise in the process – while the field also contains five other winners.
“He’s definitely striking a field with a lot of depth,” Fownes said. “There’s some really good progressive horses in there, so it’s a great starting point for us to see exactly where we are at, and, hopefully we’ll be very competitive and make our presence felt.”
Despite foregoing a barrier trial, Sky Field has galloped alongside 2020 Gr.1 FWD Champions Mile winner Southern Legend (Not A Single Doubt) in preparation for his upcoming test. Moreira has been in the plate for his key workouts, including a leg-stretch on the grass on Thursday morning.
“I’m extremely happy with his progress, I was on him (on Thursday) and once again he gave me the feel that he is ready to go to the races – I would be very disappointed if he goes there and does not perform,” Moreira said.
The Brazilian was in the plate for the gelding’s crushing four-length win and is looking forward to what the 2020/21 season has in store for him.
“He was very impressive when he won last start, we all know that as he goes up in class he is going to face tougher competition, and some horses in this race are quite promising, but the way he won last time gives me confidence that he’s going to go up in class and can be very competitive,” Moreira said.
“He’s not the type of horse that is going to challenge anyone for the speed, of course: I am going to hope that the pace is genuine enough to give a horse that settles midfield, which is where he is likely going to be, a chance to flash home,” he said. -HKJC