Ain't Here steals the limelight
'Full credit to Brett, that was a gem of a ride,' says Hayes
A bold prediction made by David Hayes after the Singapore Airlines International Cup in May began to take shape in Hong Kong yesterday when Ain't Here ($57.50) landed a confident betting move to eclipse globetrotter Bowman's Crossing in the Group Three Sha Tin Trophy over 1,600 metres.
After Ain't Here had stormed home for an unlucky fourth to German raider Epalo at Kranji, Hayes declared the Dehere gelding would be 'an ideal horse for the Hong Kong Vase' on international day (December 12).
Although his Hong Kong scoreline had been zero from 13 before yesterday, Ain't Here stylishly set about replacing the shadow with substance, with Brett Prebble giving an 11-out-of-10 exhibition to land the big mile by a neck.
Bowman's Crossing, a solid $44 second favourite, ran another great race for second but found the task of conceding 11 pounds to Ain't Here marginally beyond him.
The first pair spaced the rest of the field, with this year's Hong Kong Gold Cup winner Bullish Luck ($120) storming home late to get third, narrowly ahead of outsider Industrial Success ($570), but 33/4 lengths behind Bowman's Crossing.
'To me, that big margin between second and third shows that this is a solid form race,' Hayes said bullishly. 'Full credit to Brett, that was a gem of a ride. He followed Douglas [Whyte] on Bowman's Crossing all the way and had the last crack at him.
'Brett has had a bit of experience with this horse now and has got to know him very well. He's a horse who has a strong finish but it's very important that a jockey times his run precisely. Brett has developed a very good understanding with him.'
Hayes said the next stop with Ain't Here would be the Group Two International Cup Trial (2,000m) - a race he won last year with Elegant Fashion.
'Being realistic, he had a lot in his favour today, being a handicap, and he had the light weight,' Hayes explained. 'Next step is to do it again at set weights in the International Cup Trial. After that, we can make a final decision as to whether we set him for the Cup or the Vase. Whichever looks the most winnable race will be the way we go.'
Hayes was feeling upbeat after the race, describing it as a perfect curtain raiser for this Saturday when he and champion mare Elegant Fashion will shoulder Hong Kong's hopes in the A$3 million Cox Plate (2,40m) at Moonee Valley in Melbourne.
He recalled having contacted owner Robert Ng Chee Siong when he learned of the availability of Ain't Here, who had put the writing on the wall in Melbourne with a third to Helenus in the Victoria Derby. 'I thought this was an ideal Derby horse for Hong Kong,' Hayes said.
'Robert was great. He put his trust in me and we got the deal done quickly and cleanly. We eventually ran third in the Derby [behind Lucky Owners and Tiber] but there's no doubt he's a better horse now - stronger, more matured.'
Prebble was delighted at landing his second-most important race in Hong Kong, behind the 2003 Champions & Chater Cup on board Precision. He gave a spectacular impromptu celebration when the post was reached.
'I was that excited to win the race for Mr Ng, and for David,' Prebble said. 'I had a lovely run in the race, on the fence, following Bowman's Crossing. He was always travelling nicely and I was confident he'd be right in the finish.'
Bowman's Crossing, runner-up to Lucky Owners in last year's Group One Hong Kong Mile, did everything except win the race. In the end, it was a simple mathematical equation - he was beaten by a neck carrying 11 pounds more than the winner, so he turned in the best performance of any horse in the race without getting the result.
Tony Cruz and Felix Coetzee were pleased with Bullish Luck's return to racing. The proven Group One stayer will now head to the International Cup Trial.
Last year's winner Self Flit saw his chances go down the drain when Saturn (Torsten Mundry) was unable to be restrained. The pair ended up in a cut-throat game at the head of affairs, setting the race up beautifully for the more patiently ridden gallopers but killing their own chances.
Favourite Perfect Partner ($29) had a disappointing run.
Hayes introduced an exciting young horse in the second race when Grand Master, heavily-backed at $34, finished second to Fashion Jewellery.