It’s been a pretty good week for trainer David Hayes, with one of his stable stars indicating he’ll match it at the top level and another returning to the track this weekend after a spell on the sidelines.
The Australian trainer has all of next season’s big sprint races in mind for Nervous Witness, who finished a fine front-running second to Cordyceps Six in the Group Three Sha Tin Vase last weekend.
“I was looking all season to get him around a bend over 1,200m as I had a feeling that he would enjoy the tempo and it looked like he did,” Hayes said.
“He nearly got there and he did a great job. He’s going to run in a Class One race in July and then be put aside. He’s shown he’s durable so he’ll kick off next season and probably have a couple of runs before the [Hong Kong International Races].”
With Nervous Witness on track to take his place at the top table next season, Hayes is confident Fantastic Treasure – who returns from injury in the Class Two Amah Rock Handicap (1,200m) at Sha Tin on Sunday – can join him at the elite level.
“I think Fantastic Treasure will show that he’ll measure up too,” Hayes said. “He’s coming back from a fractured splint bone which wiped out his Classic season, but in the way he’s developed I think that he might have improved from last season.
“He’s a little bit on the fresh side and he’ll be improved by the run. We’re thinking of giving him a run in this and then maybe one more before putting him away for next season. I’d have liked to give him one more trial but we just don’t have the time.
“He might be vulnerable being a bit fresh and from a bad draw in stall 11, but it won’t be too long before he’s winning in Hong Kong and it wouldn’t surprise me if he did win.”
Hayes inherited Setanta from Francis Lui Kin-wai midway through the season and the four-year-old makes his fourth start for the trainer in the Class Three Kau To Shan Handicap (1,400m).
“I thought his first run for me was disappointing so we gave him a break and brought him back.” Hayes said.
“I thought his trial and first-up run were excellent and then a wet track wasn’t really to his liking the other day.
“He was on the wrong part of the track. He was on the inside when the whole field was on the outside, but this time he’s drawn to get a good run and I’ll be disappointed if he’s not competitive.”
E Rainbow caught the eye on debut after missing the break and staying on strongly in the straight at Happy Valley to finish sixth and Hayes is hopeful the three-year-old will have better luck from gate four in the Class Four Sha Tin Heights Handicap (1,200m).
“At Happy Valley, he missed it by a few lengths and then got blocked at the 600m, so you can forget the run,” Hayes said.
“He’s got a good gate this time, we’ve done a bit of barrier practice and we’ll have our fingers crossed. You can’t afford to miss the start in Hong Kong.”
Happy Angel, Chiron, King’s Capital and Kai Xin Dragon also compete for Hayes this weekend as he bids to add to his tally of 36 winners for the season.