David Hayes is not one to dwell on the lows but he still can’t help wondering what might have been this season despite being on the cusp of the top five in the trainers’ championship.

The in-form Australian is pushing to match his target of 50 winners but the death of two potential stars and a setback to his key contender for the four-year-old series means there is an element of “what if” to this campaign.

“My budget is 50 winners and I think we’re on course for that,” Hayes said. “You always want to be better than budget but we had some big losses in the middle of the season when Naboo Attack and Helene North Star got killed and then my highest-rated horse for the [Classic Series], Fantastic Treasure, threw a splint and missed the whole series.

“I sadly can’t replace the ones who died but Fantastic Treasure is trialling next week, building up really well and I’m looking forward to him for the end of the season.

“His timing was terrible. It happened on the eve of the Classic Mile and it had repaired by the Derby. His first few runs heading towards the series were terrific and he had Zac Purton’s attention.

“He had to be stopped but sometimes that’s a blessing, you miss the busy times and he’ll be a fresh horse for next year.”

Two of Hayes’ stars who have withstood the rigours of Hong Kong are sprinters Nervous Witness and Super Wealthy and the trainer will pitch them both into the Group Three Sha Tin Vase (1,200m) on May 22.

Super Wealthy was unlucky in his run when fourth behind Wellington in the Group One Chairman’s Sprint Prize last month and Hayes feels he’ll be stronger next season.

“Last time I thought he definitely should have run second and he might have got pretty close to the winner,” Hayes said.

“He’s won two big races this year and been within a length of the best. He’s really good in the top handicaps and I’m hoping next season he can develop further.”

Nervous Witness may have disappointed some when finishing third on his last start but Hayes was far from disheartened with that run.

“I thought he was pretty good,” Hayes said. “He had 133 pounds and there was a horse who took him out of his comfort zone.

“We’re trying to develop him into a 1,200m-1,400m horse and he didn’t get into a speed duel.

“I was happy with the way he fought on and I’ve been dying to get him to the Group Three at the end of May. He’ll only be carrying 113 and I’m looking forward to that.”

If Hayes is to keep on track for his target of 50 winners, he’ll be hoping to salute at least once at Sha Tin on Saturday with the useful Master Montaro leading the charge in the Class Two Carnation Handicap (1,400m).

“He’s at a rating where I know he can win and be competitive,” Hayes said.

Hayes hunts down last season’s winner tally as he targets sustained growth

A couple of five-year-old sprinters also have a chance to salute, with Metro Warrior and Forte contesting the Class Three Balsamine Handicap (1,000m) and Class Three Celosia Handicap (1,200m), respectively.

“Metro Warrior is back at 1,000m and also in Class Three,” Hayes said. “He’s not a Class Two horse but he’s very consistent in this grade.

“Forte deserves to win. He’s knocking on the door and has been getting terrible gates and having to go right back. I think with a feather weight he can run well.”

With Decrypt looking to follow up his first Hong Kong win and newcomer Wide Blue Yonder, who has looked promising in a couple of trials, also among Hayes’ Sha Tin squad, a strong end to the season could well begin on Saturday.