Trainer Caspar Fownes says he "doesn't care" what people think of him after being prevented from attending the races in Hong Kong as a result of being unvaccinated against COVID-19.
Fownes, 54, claimed his fourth championship in Hong Kong last year after a stellar season, which included success in the BMW Hong Kong Derby with Sky Darci and a win in the Longines Hong Kong Sprint (G1) at the International meeting last month with Sky Field.
However, with racing in Hong Kong taking place behind closed doors due to a rise in COVID-19 infections and a recent positive test at Happy Valley Racecourse, Fownes was unable to attend a fixture Jan. 12 and will also be unable to attend Jan. 16 and Jan. 19 with the essential staff permitted to enter the racecourse needing to be fully vaccinated against the virus.
No vaccination restrictions have been put in place away from the racecourse, meaning Fownes has continued to train his horses trouble-free, but he believes he may end up needing to be vaccinated if the racecourses remain under lockdown beyond the present meetings.
"It's not affected my work in any way," he said on Jan. 15. "I'm still out there every day working and seeing the same people, but you're only able to attend the races if you are fully vaccinated.
"I'm medically exempt from taking the vaccine but it looks like I might have to take something to go racing at some point as I think the restrictions will stay in place from the government, but we'll just have to see.
"I'm seeing the same people every day that I'd see at the races but then I can't go, which doesn't really make sense but it is what it is. I've trained nearly 1,000 winners so I don't care what people think of me."
Fownes, who also landed the Hong Kong Derby in 2010 and handled multiple group 1-winner Lucky Nine, added: "It's an unfortunate situation. I'm pro-vaccine, I support science but a few friends of mine and some people I've worked with have had some complications when they've had it, and I've got some complications, so it's not straightforward.
"It really depends on what the government does but it looks as though the restrictions will be extended, like they are in nearly every other country, and that's going to impact on what happens with the races."
Due to his vaccination status, Fownes, who was born in India to British parents, expects to be at home next Sunday when Sky Darci and Sky Field participate in the Stewards' Cup (G1) and Centenary Sprint Cup (G1) respectively at Sha Tin, although no restrictions are in place for the meeting at present.
The trainer believes it is a "big task" taking on Hong Kong superstar Golden Sixty with Sky Darci in the Stewards' Cup but is optimistic about the quality of horse in his stable for the year ahead.
"I've got some nice horses for the year ahead that I'm excited about along with Sky Darci and Sky Field, who were brilliant last year," he said. "My aim this year is to try and win the Derby again and you have to aim high."