The sight of Zac Purton calmly taking three glances over his shoulder as Nervous Witness completed the most effortless of debut victories caught the attention of racing fans far and wide, but if the star jockey looks back at Sha Tin on Friday, he may discover a gap that is closing rather than widening.
While the four-year-old’s opposition in his three-length opening-day romp was largely mediocre, the Douglas Whyte-trained Carroll Street should ensure a far sterner test in the Class Three Shanghai Handicap (1,000m).
Whether Carroll Street – who has three wins from four starts, all down the straight – can topple Hong Kong’s newest spruik horse is another thing all together, but it’s hard to see him going down without a fight.
“Carroll Street is clearly a classy horse, I’m hoping with the big weight he might be looking for a bit further,” Hayes said.
“I’ve certainly got respect for him, you’d be mad not too, but we’ll probably be a bit ahead of him carrying a lot less weight.
“When you go up 14 points, those Class Three races can be very competitive but Carroll Street will have to run very fast time to beat him.”
Nervous Witness certainly won’t be leaving anything to chance under his 121-pound impost – Purton has labelled his penchant for getting on with things his “little vice at the moment” – and Hayes expects another performance that will do the green and black silks of Silent Witness’ fame justice.
“He certainly hasn’t gone backwards – he’s as good or better,” the trainer said.
It is the straight track where a lot of Hayes’ attention will be focused on Friday, with the veteran handler labelling the Group Three National Day Cup (1,000m) a “crossroads race” for Super Wealthy.
After producing a booming finish to salute in Class Two on September 12, Hayes spoke of his desire to test the former Whyte-trained galloper at the highest level in December’s Hong Kong Sprint.
“If he can beat these horses at this distance you go straight into the [Group Two Jockey Club Sprint (1,200m)] ahead of the international,” Hayes said.
“If he found it a bit short, you’d go for [a Class Two] in three weeks. Which path he takes will be up to him really, depending on how he mixes with the good ones.”
Super Wealthy tackles elite-level placegetters Sky Field and Computer Patch in his first Group assignment and Hayes hopes he can again thunder down the straight.
“I’ve just kept him very fresh because keeping him fresh worked the first time. I’d say he’s about in the same shape as he was first-up and we were pretty confident he would run well first-up,” he said.
Hayes also saddles up Witty Scholar, Lord Thunder, Red Impact, Master Montaro, Fearless Fire, The Multiplier and Helene Allibor, suggesting the latter is progressing as hoped towards a potential Classic Series tilt despite finishing last over 1,400m last time out.
“I was looking at his sectionals, it was one of those unusual races where the leaders kept running but he ran the last 600m as good as anything in the race, so I don’t think he’s going badly,” Hayes said of the son of All Too Hard, who lines up in the Class Three Chongqing Handicap (1,600m) and will step out to 1,800m in the coming weeks.
“I’m seeing something there, he’s a big horse who eats well and breathes well, so I think he is going to relish a bit of ground here.”