Trainer David Hayes is experiencing a bounce-back season and he is confident that one of his stable stars, Nervous Witness, can also make a return to his best at Happy Valley on Sunday.
With 24 winners already this season, Hayes is three-quarters of the way to matching last campaign’s tally of 32 and the Australian trainer has identified the key reasons for his change in form.
“The main thing is that I had a stable of John Moore’s ex-horses and they’d had a pretty busy time,” Hayes said.
“I also had about 50 new horses and you’ll find that horses who come to Hong Kong are always better in their second season and even better in their third.
“There are not many horses who come straight to Hong Kong and fire – most take a bit of time. Now they are into that second season, they are coming on strong.”
One of Hayes’ horses who has fired in his first Hong Kong season is Nervous Witness. The sprinter made a huge impression when winning his first two starts but has been given a two-month break since finishing second to Master Eight in November and the trainer feels he has benefited from that rest.
“I thought his last two runs were perfectly fine, he was still running fast times, but it was a little bit below what I thought he could do,” Hayes said. “Sometimes after their first few races, they need a bit of a back-off.”
A recent barrier trial suggested that Nervous Witness is in good shape ahead of his return in the Class Two Hip Wo Handicap (1,000m) at Happy Valley on Sunday and Hayes has been pleased with the way his sprinter has been working.
“His trial looked very good, it was his first time at the Valley, and at different times he’s looked outstanding,” Hayes said. “Fingers crossed he can go back to his first and second runs.”
While Nervous Witness has displayed plenty of ability, Hayes has been disappointed with Decrypt, who drops to Class Three company for the first time in the Hung To Handicap (1,650m).
David Hayes attacks season opener with high expectations for 2021-22
The six-year-old finished third in the Irish 2,000 Guineas in 2019 but Hayes feels the tracks in Hong Kong are not ideal for his runner.
“There’s no question he’s got ability but the ground in Europe is much softer and I’m not sure the firm tracks in Hong Kong suit him,” Hayes said.
“The Valley generally is a bit softer and there’s been a little bit of rain about and cold weather, so we hope that he might let go for us.”
The trainer may not be expecting too much from Decrypt but he has high hopes of saluting at least once on the Happy Valley card, with Awesome Treasure possibly his best chance in the second section of the Class Four Wai Yip Handicap (1,200m).
“He goes well at the Valley, he’s won his only start there and he should be very hard to beat,” Hayes said
With Ka Ying Spirit on the verge of a rise in grade if he runs well in the Class Four Tsun Yip Handicap (1,000m) and Chater Pins attempting to back up his best run in Hong Kong in the second section of the Class Four Yue Man Handicap (1,650m), Hayes may well have a good day at the Valley and he feels his current string are more than talented enough to help him end this term on a high.
“I think I’ll finish the season quite well and be even stronger next year,” Hayes said.