Even the super-optimist in trainer David Hayes could not have foreseen the remarkable first season he has enjoyed back home in Australia, but that doesn't mean he thinks it has finished.
Twelve months ago, Hayes was just mulling over his return to Australia after a decade in Hong Kong and his future at Lindsay Park, the showpiece stud and training farm built from the ground up by his late father, Colin.
'My last Hong Kong season was a gap year. My numbers got down to 28 horses and I was organising to go back,' said Hayes yesterday. 'That showed in the results but I was going from 28 horses to 250 horses, so it was probably important to freshen myself up. If anyone had suggested then that I'd have the season I've had in Australia, they'd have to have been mad or psychic,' added the trainer as he prepared to return to oversee the final preparation of his Champions Mile runner, Niconero.
'I was going back to a group of older horses who looked limited and a bunch of new two-year-olds. I thought my first season would rely on finding something amongst the babies and it did, but who could have guessed they would be such a good collection?'
When the Hayes team led in their 39th individual juvenile winner for the season, the trainer's long-time Melbourne assistant, Gary Fennessy, said he couldn't remember a year when so much ability walked off each and every truck from Lindsay Park.
Hayes took both major juvenile races - the Blue Diamond Stakes in Melbourne and Golden Slipper in Sydney - providing a quinella in one, first and third in the other, as well as sending out nearly all of the other black-type juvenile winners in his main bases, Melbourne and Adelaide.
'That was one surprise - to have so many two-year-olds that could gallop. The other was what emerged from the older horses,' Hayes said. 'Fields Of Omagh is eight and still managed to win A$1 million; Barely A Moment came out of nowhere to win two Group Ones; and then there's Vroom Vroom, my old Argentinian-Hong Konger. He's been a revelation racing left-handed and I'm hoping he can go and win the international race in Singapore on Sunday week.'
With the brilliant youngsters ably supported by his older horses, Hayes is sitting a very tidy second in the Melbourne championship, leads the nation for winners trained and is excelling in his preferred tableau - the big races.
'Now it's actually hard to imagine that next year could be any better but if I can keep my top 10 or so horses fit and firing, that will translate to plenty of stake money.'
As for Niconero, he hasn't yet won a Group One but Hayes said he was 'due'.
'He's very consistent but hasn't had all the luck and only went down in a photo last time for a Group One at Randwick,' Hayes said. 'I'd like to get a good gate because he can pull a little and needs cover, but I reckon he's knocking on the door for a big one.'