Hong Kong's Gun Pit arrives ahead of Champions Cup
Gun Pit, the sole overseas-based contender in this year’s G1 Champions Cup, arrived in Japan early on Nov. 24. The 5-year-old gelding from the Sha Tin stable of the highly successful Caspar Fownes, will take on the Champions Cup over 1,800 meters of dirt at Chukyo Racecourse on Dec. 6.
Gun Pit arrived from Hong Kong at Narita International Airport at 6:20 a.m. Tuesday and made the short trip the JRA Horseracing School, where he arrived at 9:20 a.m.
Danny Suen, assistant to trainer Fownes, commented on the trip. “He looks a bit tired from the trip but I think he’ll be fine after a bit.” Suen said, “The trainer told me to make the best of this opportunity and give it all we’ve got.” Suen says he will be in communication with Fownes every day for instructions on the horse’s training.
By Dubawi and out of the Ali-Royal mare Magic Tori, Gun Pit is owned by Chung Wah Cheng. Australian-bred, Gun Pit currently has eight wins and two seconds from 18 starts. He has a perfect record on the all-weather track – seven for seven. Currently on a three-race winning streak, the bay gelding last raced on Nov. 18 in the Class 1 Jackson Handicap over 1,650 meters on the all-weather track. It was his first Class 1 race. He went to the gate the favorite and topped the field of 14 by 2 lengths.
Gun Pit’s two wins previous to the Jackson Handicap were in Class 2 races at the same distance. He has run in Hong Kong Grade 1 races twice before and finished poorly in both, both of which were run over turf. He ran 10th in the Hong Kong Derby over 2,000 meters this past March and, in the Hong Kong Classic Mile, he ran 11th.
Following Gun Pit’s last outing, the South China Morning Post quoted the 48-year-old Fownes as saying, "That was impressive, he is a very exciting horse on the surface and we look forward to bigger and better things with him.
Sha Tin’s all-weather track, however, is different from the deeper sand-based mix of Chukyo, which does leave some concerns. Also, having not left Hong Kong before, Gun Pit has only had experience over right-handed tracks.
The gelding’s wins have all come over 1,650 meters. He has been given three races this year over 1,800 and 2,000 meters but finished in sixth and 10th place, respectively. Nonetheless, Fownes said, "I think the distance won't be a problem at all. . . . The only question mark will be the Japanese dirt surface."
One factor in Gun Pit’s favor at Chukyo will be the 57 kg he will be asked to carry, His last three starts all saw him running under 60 kg or 60.5 kg.
Gun Pit has had the most success this year running from a midfield position and stepping into the lead coming into the stretch. He is basically untested over going any slower than “good to yielding, but looks to prefer a good to fast surface. Zachary Purton, who has ridden Gun Pit for 11 of his 18 starts and has been up for the last three starts, is slated to ride in the Champions Cup.
The G1 Champions Cup is the 11th race on the Sunday card of 12 at Chukyo. Post time is 3:30 p.m. (Japan time)