When David Hayes was based for a decade at Sha Tin, perhaps his only unrealised ambition was to return to Australia to win a major race with a Hong Kong horse. Neither a Melbourne Cup campaign with Helene Vitality nor a Cox Plate tilt with outstanding mare Elegant Fashion bore fruit and that section of the Hayes' wish list remained open when his career here closed. Now the agenda has changed to bringing an Australian horse to win one of Hong Kong's big prizes and he is confident that day will come, whether or not it is with Growl in the HK$20 million Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Cup. 'I'd love to bring a horse here to win. I had a champion group of two-year-olds in Australia last year and have another good group this season,' Hayes said. 'I'm building real strength and in the years ahead I'll be back with a real headliner, something like a Miss Finland. I would rate Growl in my top seven or eight horses, and he might be a developing star, but he isn't an established one.' Even the ultimate optimist in Hayes could not have imagined what he has achieved in little over a year back home. 'I thought I'd be competitive, but I did expect it to take longer to build the team you need for the year I've had,' he said. 'I went back full of enthusiasm and really motivated and with a great team behind me it has all worked.' Growl never shifted the focus from the likes of Tawqeet, Fields Of Omagh and Miss Finland, but he played his part, graduating to a Group One second last month and Hayes is disappointed to be losing him. Hong Kong-based owner Sanjeev Mahtani will keep the horse here to be trained by Almond Lee Yee-tat, Hayes' former assistant. 'Growl's amazing. Elegant Fashion was the best-credentialed horse we ever brought here and I think he's her equal,' he said. 'He is still in his first preparation, stretching back to March in a bush maiden at Strathalbyn. He just kept climbing, eventually winning a stakes race at Caulfield, and if Growl had been in the Melbourne Cup he would have run a place. 'Instead he ran second in the Mackinnon [Stakes], beating home eight Group One winners, but still looks like he's on his first, not last, run of a long prep. I'm not confident he'll win on Sunday but he can run into the money and, if he holds his line and length, he'll mix it with the best of the locals.'