David Hayes says he is “definitely going to need Beauty Generation to win” on Sunday after a hike this week ended with his beagle Bailey in intensive care.
But while Hayes is now able to make light of the situation, it was far from a laughing matter when his dog was bitten by a bamboo viper during a walk in Tai Po Kau Nature Reserve on Wednesday.
Hayes, his wife Prue and jockey Blake Shinn took turns carrying Bailey before he was rushed to hospital and treated with antivenom.
“It was frightening, we had to carry him for an hour down the mountain and he nearly died. He’s got a big bruised belly and he’s on the easy list for a week,” Hayes said.
“It was good management by my wife, we took it in turns to carry him down the mountain – he’s about 14 kgs.
“If a dog ever gets bitten, you can’t mobilise them but we had to get him home and get him to the hospital. Prue made the decision that we had to carry him and not make him move. The vets say that’s why he survived.
“We were relieved to be able to pick him up out of hospital [on Thursday] – I’m definitely going to need Beauty Generation to win because the bill is horrendous.”
The ordeal added to what was already sure to be a big week for Hayes, who saddles up Beauty Generation for the first time in the Group Three Celebration Cup (1,400m) at Sha Tin.
After rolling out a host of largely uninspiring gallopers over the first six meetings of the season for a total of two winners, Hayes is thrilled to be involved in the first Group race of the season with the two-time Horse of the Year.
“Off a little bit of a quiet run it’s nice to have a horse of that class to be able to take to the races,” Hayes said.
“I got a huge thrill winning with Moneymore [on opening day] and that might have given me a false sense of security but I’ve had a reality check in the last couple of weeks.”
Beauty Generation is shooting for a fourth straight Celebration Cup success and also sits on 18 career wins – a record the eight-year-old holds with the revered Silent Witness and Super Win.
The former John Moore-trained galloper has to give Derby winner Golden Sixty 17 pounds and Southern Legend five but Hayes is confident he heads into the race with a live chance.
“Because he’s a champion, it wouldn’t surprise me if he won in the handicaps, but the first two races are going to be his toughest,” Hayes said.
“You have got to give [Golden Sixty] a lot of respect and [Southern Legend] who beat him at set weights last start and is meeting him five pounds better.
“I would definitely say if he was able to break the record in this race or the next it would be a bonus but if he’s racing at his usual level he’ll be competitive and then at his third run at weight for age [in the Jockey Club Mile] he’ll be extremely hard to beat.”
Beauty Generation has drawn gate one and will be ridden by regular jockey Zac Purton in a race that Hayes won during his first Hong Kong stint when it was named the National Day Cup, with Prime Witness saluting at $71 in 2003.
“I generally find the shortest way home is the best. If they go hard he’ll take a sit and if they go slow he’ll lead. That’s why he’s a champion – he can do that,” Hayes said of what he expects to unfold from the inside alley.