Spurred on with 10 wins since the beginning of April, David Hayes is looking to maintain his late-season surge when he heads to Happy Valley tomorrow evening (Wednesday, 5 May) with seven hopes across the nine-race fixture.
In his second Hong Kong stint, Hayes’ current purple patch has enhanced his seasonal tally to 24 after he endured a somewhat slow start to proceedings which he pins down to an arsenal of young and inexperienced horses under his care.
His impressive haul of young guns to flourish through the second half of the season includes the unbeaten Fantastic Treasure who is on a 2022 Four-Year-Old Classic Series trail, while Ka Ying Spirit, who scored on debut last Sunday (2 May) is one of six to win first-up in Hong Kong for Hayes this campaign, the most of any trainer this season.
“Fantastic Treasure has one more run in two weeks, he’s thrived since the race and if he can manage to win his fifth then he’ll be totally qualified for next year’s Four-Year-Old Classic Series,” Hayes said.
Give Way Please, while fancied on debut was unable to join that list of debut winners for Hayes, however, tomorrow night he heads to Happy Valley in a bid to maintain the handler’s excellent form of late when he contests the Class 4 Ma Tau Kok Handicap (1000m).
“I think he’s like a lot of my young horses, they’ve taken time to adjust – he trialled like a bullet and I ran him off one trial but I think it just flattened him,” Hayes said.
The four-year-old son of Sebring set the track alight prior to his debut earlier this season with an impressive first-past-the-post effort in a barrier trial on the turf.
“He’s had a nice build-up, though, because I just reset him and hopefully he can kick off where I thought he would be at the start of the season,” Hayes said.
The gelding has raced twice in Hong Kong after arriving as an unraced PPG (Privately Purchased Griffin), finishing fifth and 11th last October.
“It was a pretty good trial effort I thought, he ran second but my only query regarding tomorrow night is whether the 1000 metres will be too sharp for him or not, a lot of the Sebrings are better over 1200 and 1400 metres,” the handler said.
Since his most recent run, Hayes has taken a slow approach with the 50-rater ahead of his third start and first at Happy Valley under race conditions.
“Very much so (to taking a slow approach), he sort of went off his feed for a while and when they’re not eating you can’t push them, so thankfully he’s eating again and hopefully he’ll run well – I think he looks well,” Hayes said.
The in-form Derek Leung takes the reins and the duo set off from gate eight against 11 opponents.
Later on the card, Hayes saddles Showina for the first section of the Class 4 Ma Tau Wai Handicap (1200m) in a bid for back-to-back wins with the Showcasing gelding.
“He made all from barrier 12 and he doesn’t look like he’s gone backwards, he has a bit of a sticky gate again but he could overcome that last start, so he’ll be ridden forward and we’ll see what happens,” Hayes said.
Blake Shinn retains the ride and the pair will depart from gate nine against 11 others with 133lb allotted at the top of the handicap.
“I think he is a progressive horse, there’s definitely more room to move, he was lucky he was kept in the class but the negative is that he is a three-year-old carrying a big weight,” Hayes said.
On the nine-race fixture Hayes saddles Fearless Fire in the Class 3 Kowloon City Handicap (1650m), the galloper is looking to notch a hat-trick of wins and will break from gate one with Matthew Poon engaged.
Hayes’ entrants on the nine-race programme also includes Casa Kingdom, Poised To Strike, Kai Xin Dragon and Harmony N Blessed.
In the night’s feature, the finale, Hayes is without a runner but a classy field of 12 do battle in the Class 2 Hok Yuen Handicap (1200m), including Silver Fig (124lb), who shoots for a hat-trick of wins.
The Tony Millard-trained grey pairs with Antoine Hamelin and the duo will set off from gate two.
“I prefer him on the dirt but the horse is in good form so let’s see what he can do, I’m a little bit confident because I’ve ridden him for a long time and I’m more than happy to ride him again,” Hamelin said.
The Hard Spun gelding was a two-time winner on the turf prior to his four wins on the dirt and he returns to the city circuit for the first time since December of 2019.
“The race is not overly strong but it’s also not easy so let’s see what he can do on the turf – it’s difficult to know but I think the horse is in good form, the moral is good, so everything looks good,” Hamelin said.
Hamelin has 23 wins this term, his most recent coming in the second race of last Wednesday’s (28 April) fixture for trainer Michael Chang aboard Family Folks.