Michael Cox



Caspar Fownes on front foot as ‘flexible’ Jockey Club policy changes put emphasis on PPGs

A raft of changes to import permits have been welcomed by four-time champion trainer Caspar Fownes as the Hong Kong Jockey Club scrambles to meet the demands of a bullish bloodstock market.

Caspar Fownes has praised the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s ‘flexible’ approach after a raft of ownership permit changes designed to boost Hong Kong’s ailing horse population and the four-time champion trainer is already adapting with a buying policy aimed at securing untapped talent.

A prizemoney boom in Australia, that has included the establishment of rich new races like the AU$15 million Everest and AU$10 million Golden Eagle, has fuelled a bullish bloodstock market that has put previously buyable prospects for Hong Kong out of reach.

Returns to owners in New South Wales and Victoria alone have more than doubled in the last ten years and this has left Hong Kong buyers and the club itself struggling for options as they battle to maintain not only the standard of horses in the jurisdiction, but pure numbers.

The Jockey Club had already lowered the minimum rating for tried horses and opened the door to overseas ownership, but this week informed trainers and permit holders that an individual owner could now own five horses instead of four, and made it easier to replace underperforming or injured horses.

“We have got to be flexible and adapt to the new reality, it doesn’t matter how much money you have, you can’t just go out and source what you want anymore,” Fownes said.

“You have to be able to buy something that has value for the job at hand, but with the money they are racing for in Australia, people just won’t let go of horses. The prizemoney is through the roof. People aren’t going to part with anything half decent, which is understandable, given all that is on offer for three-year-olds and four-year-olds.

“The Jockey Club is finally being a lot more flexible in what they do and being more accommodating going forward, giving people options.”


Caspar Fownes at the NZB Ready To Run Sale at Karaka. (Photo: Trish Dunell/NZ Racing Desk).

In response to the astronomical prices for highly rated young horses, the Jockey Club has further incentivised owners into pursuing unraced horses, or Private Purchase Griffins (PPGs).

On Thursday, it promoted an astonishing 100 reserve permits from the reserve list for PPGs – raising the total number to 410, compared to 90 PP permits for the same year – and granted three month extensions to all outstanding 2021-22 permits.

The moves will create an unprecedented number of Hong Kong buyers in the Australian market, particularly for unraced horses.

Fownes has historically been an active and successful buyer of tried horses but he and son Ryan spent more than NZ$1million on four unraced lots at the New Zealand Bloodstock Ready to Run Sale at Karaka on Wednesday and Thursday.

Fownes’ horses were not for a specific owner and Fownes plans to have them prepared to barrier trial stage in Australia and New Zealand before assessing his options.

“Physically we have got some nice horses to work with and we are confident that if we take them to Class Four in Hong Kong that they will do a nice job for us,” said Fownes, who is working with trainers Lauren Brennan in New Zealand, and Lee and Shannon Hope in Australia.

“I have paid for these myself but people have got my number, if they like what they see they can get in touch. This is our starting point but once we go to the trials we will see exactly what we have got.”

Lot 19, the Turn Me Loose colt purchased at Karaka by Caspar and Ryan Fownes for NZ$500,000. (Photo: Trish Dunell/NZ Racing Desk).

Asked if his new buying policy on taking a position on unraced prospects would continue at the Australian and New Zealand yearling sales season in the new year, Fownes replied, ‘100 percent it will’.

“We are taking this seriously, we will acquire a few horses and we have some close owner friends that want to be part of the plan,” he said. “We plan to try and identify something we like and if we take them to the trials and if they look nice, we bring them to Hong Kong unraced, and if we think they are really special we will race them in Australia and qualify them for a Private Purchase permit. We will keep options open and see what type of permit we want to bring them in on.”

The new changes to the Jockey Club’s permit policies will benefit Hong Kong’s richest owners and allow them to replace underperforming horses more easily.

Horses will be able to be replaced with a “special replacement permit” after they have had a maximum of two runs – up from one – and the replacement can have a minimum rating of 70, a further drop from 75.

Also helping facilitate the replacements is the move to make it possible to ‘retire’ horses directly to Macau, when old rules required an expensive transfer via a third jurisdiction, usually New Zealand.



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