Classic Mile day is one David Hayes is keen to forget but the performance of Master Montaro has him confident Classic Cup day could be quite the opposite.
Master Montaro returned to the winner’s circle at Sha Tin on the weekend after finishing near last on January 24, barely an hour after ownermate Shadow Hero faded into fifth after racing handier than usual in the Classic Mile.
“I feel that seeing Master Montaro improve after that shocker day we had gives me a lot of hope for Shadow Hero in the Classic Cup,” Hayes said.
Top win!— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) January 24, 2021
Excellent Proposal bounces back to his best and grabs the 1st leg of the #4YOSeries, the HK$12 million Hong Kong Classic Mile under @blake_shinn for trainer John Size! #HKracing pic.twitter.com/E4JGiQJYsG
“I think he ran really well in the Classic Mile considering the tactics went the wrong way on him, I think he went far too fast his first 1,200m and he still hung on pretty well so I could see him improving a lot, like Master Montaro.”
Hayes takes a two-pronged attack into the second leg of the four-year-old series at Sha Tin on Sunday, with Conqueror joining Shadow Hero in the fray after an impressive runner-up performance in Class Two.
Zac Purton stays aboard Shadow Hero and Hayes expects his expensive import to be ridden more conservatively this time around.
“He’ll be ridden like the Derby is his next race, not like this race is his last race – I’d expect him to hopefully settle fourth or fifth and [Zac to] ride him like he was ridden in Australia to win two Group Ones,” Hayes said, adding that the two gear changes he made before the Classic Mile – blinkers off, cheek pieces on – will remain in place.
“I’m going to keep it all the same because I actually thought it was a really good run considering what we did to him.”
Conqueror tackles 1,800m for the first time in his career and Hayes is excited to see what the son of Fastnet Rock – who was four and a half lengths behind the victorious Shadow Hero in the Group One Randwick Guineas last year – can produce at his third Hong Kong start.
“Conqueror is coming on leaps and bounds, his work this morning was first class and I just have the feeling he really will get better as the races get longer,” Hayes said of the gelding, who had a bumpy start to life in Hong Kong.
“He was just put out of kilter because he was scratched from his first race and he had to run on the dirt, but he’s an improving horse who might put his hand up as a contender this weekend.”
Tony Piccone retains the ride, with Hayes liking the way Conqueror “responded for him” when hitting the line nicely for second over a mile earlier this month.
Hayes will not have a presence in Sunday’s Group One features – the Gold Cup and the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup – but hopes he can be competitive at the top end later in the season.
“I don’t have any horses above the 90s at the moment so I’m missing competing in those races. I’m looking forward to getting a few go up in the ratings and being there towards the end of the season,” said Hayes, whose highest-rated galloper is Decrypt on 96.