Lee lives up to Hayes' expectations
When trainer Almond Lee Yee-tat slipped past David Hall with a double to take him to fifth on the championship list yesterday, he didn't have to guess whether it would have made his old boss David Hayes proud.
The pair took Lee to 34 wins for the season, already his best year and plenty of racing still to go to improve on that figure.
'It's funny, I was talking to David Hayes a couple of months ago and he said to me that my goal this year should be to finish in the top five and to beat David Hall,' Lee revealed after Joyful World (Alex Lai Hoi-wing) and Steel Nerves (Gerald Mosse) landed consecutive events early on the card. 'So I guess he will be pleased about this.'
Lee, in his third term since taking a licence, has improved season by season but the most progress has been made this year with what has appeared a more versatile approach and the double showed the benefits of flexibility.
While Lee's approach by and large is one of gentle handling of his horses without overpowering them on the track, he admitted the lightly-raced three-year-old Steel Nerves had demanded a completely different approach.
'The way I've trained him is nothing like my usual style,' Lee explained.
'I've been quite mean, quite hard on him, which is unusual but he's quite a bulky horse. And earlier in the season the work riders and the jockeys were complaining that he felt quite uncoordinated to ride and he didn't look very good in his slow work.
'That is usually the kind of work that I prefer but with Steel Nerves, I decided that I had to push him and make him get out there and really do the job. It's been something different.'
Something different but with the right outcome and the Commands gelding rounded off some excellent recent runs finishing off well over shorter distances by breaking his maiden when stepped up to 1,400m in the Isle Of Man Handicap by a significant margin.
'It wasn't easy today with a wide gate but the horse deserved to win after the way he's been going and Gerald did a great job,' Lee said.
And Joyful World was able to benefit from a change of a different kind with the former tearaway leader now experimenting happily with racing from behind the speed.
'He has always raced quite fiercely so last time I took the blinkers off and we rode him behind with some cover,' Lee said. 'He ran quite well which gave me confidence to put him behind again today and I felt that tactically that was important. On the C track, the winners usually come from midfield, not from the leaders, so I preferred to be able to sit him off the pace.'
Joyful World responded, scraping through to win just his third victory from 46 starts but the gelding has been a consistent minor placegetter as well in the lower grades with earnings now approaching HK$2 million.