Elated after extending a remarkable start to the season with a quartet, David Hayes hopes to plot a path to the Group 1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) after Super Wealthy threatened Sha Tin’s 1000m course record with a brilliant Group 3 National Day Cup Handicap (1000m) triumph on Friday (1 October).
Atop the trainers’ championship with 12 wins – five clear of Danny Shum – Hayes revelled in his most successful day since returning to Hong Kong last season, marking a momentous occasion by posting his 500th Hong Kong victory after emphatic wins by exciting trio Nervous Witness, Lord Thunder and Master Montaro.
Hayes predicted Super Wealthy could match better credentialled sprinters and was proved right under a measured ride from Alexis Badel, clocking 54.96s – a Sha Tin Group race record – to narrowly miss Valiant Dream’s course mark of 54.68s.
“He ran exceptional time, beating in-form horses (Sky Field and Lucky Patch),” Hayes beamed.
“He’s done it twice in a row now, so I’ve got complete faith with him going into the good races here in Hong Kong. I just like the way he’s relaxing, he’s matured.”
Hayes indicated the Group 2 Premier Bowl Handicap (1200m) on 17 October was Super Wealthy’s likely springboard into the Hong Kong Sprint on 12 December.
“That’s probably a really nice race (Premier Bowl) because he’ll be well in at the handicaps and that will qualify him for the Internationals,” he said. “I would love to go to the Hong Kong Sprint with him. He’s in-form and can run time.”
Hayes combined with Zac Purton for two of his quartet – Nervous Witness and Master Montaro – while the jockey also triumphed on Chris So’s debutante Good News to lead the jockeys’ championship with 16, six clear of Joao Moreira.
Purton labelled Nervous Witness ‘special’ and told Hayes the newcomer was a Group 1 horse after the untapped sprinter’s scorching victory in the Class 3 Shanghai Handicap (1000m) catapulted Hayes to the 500th milestone.
With successive wins by broad margins in slick time – three and three quarter lengths and 55.24s today – Nervous Witness again stamped himself as a rare talent for Hayes, Purton and the da Silva family, who also raced superstar sprinter Silent Witness.
“He (Zac) said he’s a Group 1 horse, he said he got put under a lot of pressure from Joao Moreira, he said he just served it to him,” Hayes said.
“You’d prefer him not to have that pressure but it’s nice to see how he responded. He responded like a proper horse.
“We’re very lucky to have a lovely young team of horses so it makes it easier to get up in the morning. They’re’ important horses all of them, we’ve got an excitement machine (Nervous Witness), a very impressive winner in the second (Lord Thunder) and Master Montaro won with some authority, like he’s going places.
“There’s a lot to look forward to out of the meeting.”
Purton was deeply impressed by Nervous Witness’ composure and power on the same day Silent Witness turned 22.
“It was very good. Predictably, as I thought pre-race, Moreira would try and torch him in the first half of the race – which he did, he really went out hard and tried to make it hard for both of us, really,” Purton said.
“My bloke, to his credit, it was only his second start in a race, he had to absorb all of that and he actually got stronger as the race went on. It was a really good performance. They just don’t do what he just did – it was special.
“He got it put to him today and he had to find and he didn’t just find, he put them away.”
Blake Shinn and Hayes are upbeat over Lord Thunder’s potential after gelding blazed to a four-length victory in the second section of the Class 4 Chengdu Handicap (1200m) to maintain his unbeaten record after two starts despite shifting ground late.
“He just needed a friend in the straight, bit similar to his first start – he was probably going to win by three lengths but just got lost when he went past the second horse,” Shinn said.
“On one hand, it’s probably a little bit exciting because there’s more room to improve but when he goes up in class, he’s probably got to rectify those little habits. But the great thing is that he’s learning, he’s talented and he’s progressive, so that’s great.”
Hayes believes experience will improve the chestnut’s racing manners.
“Blake has done a very good job on this horse, he was a difficult horse. When he arrived, he wanted to over-race and Blake spent a lot of time on him, riding him every day to keep him relaxed and when he’s relaxed, he can go to the upper class.”
Purton and Hayes teamed up with Master Montaro, who overcame a tricky draw (gate nine) to land the Class 2 Beijing Handicap (1400m) under a brilliant Purton ride.
“I give all the credit for the win to Zac Purton – of course, the stable has done a great job – it was the best ride he’s done for me since he’s been in Hong Kong,” Hayes said.
Chris So notched a double with Purton coaxing the best out of first-starter Good News in the first section of the Class 4 Chengdu Handicap (1200m) before Vagner Borges delivered Copartner Era with a well-timed surge in the Class 4 Nanning Handicap (1600m).
So is excited by Good News’ potential after the four-year-old validated strong lead-up trials with debut success.
“There was a lot of pressure – everybody put their money on,” So grinned. “The horse is good, since last year at the trials he has showed that in his performance. “He’s a nice one, he should go further in the future – I hope he can improve and keep going.
Dylan Mo posted his first victory of the season aboard veteran Mister Monte, winner of the Class 5 Shenyang Handicap (1800m). The eight-year-old’s fourth triumph at his 53rd start delivered Michael Chang’s third winner for the season.
Frankie Lor’s Xiang Yin broke through at his 15th start for Karis Teetan to snare the Class 4 Jinan Handicap (1400m). Lor sealed a double with All For St Paul’s under Matthew Poon in the Class 3 Chongqing Handicap (1600m).
Moreira and John Size closed the programme with Drops Of God’s success in the Class 3 Tianjin Handicap (1200m).