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Happy Valley bends key for Nervous Witness

February 5, 2022, 3:00:42 AM

David Hayes believes Happy Valley’s unique contours are the key to Nervous Witness’ chances of making a winning return in the Class 2 Hip Wo Handicap (1000m) at the City Circuit on Sunday (6 February).

David Hayes believes Happy Valley’s unique contours are the key to Nervous Witness’ chances of making a winning return in the Class 2 Hip Wo Handicap (1000m) at the City Circuit on Sunday (6 February).

Unbeaten in his first two starts over 1000m at Sha Tin, Nervous Witness created a huge impression before suffering successive defeats, including a last-start second to subsequent G3 winner Master Eight on 21 November.

Hayes trialled Nervous Witness at Happy Valley on 22 January and was delighted with the gelding’s performance to clock 57.85s in winning the trial by three and three-quarter lengths.

“He was impressive in his trial, he wasn’t out to win but he did it very easily which is always a good sign and he leant into the bends and looked like he handled the Valley very, very well,” Hayes said. “We’re looking forward to him with fresh legs. I think he’s a very good fresh horse.

“I am sure that he’s a horse who will be better on a bend than a straight. I’m thinking he’ll be able to cruise into the bend and kick strongly. I thought his last run was fine but my feel was that his form was just tapering off.

“His first two wins were brilliant in very, very fast times and then he probably just peaked and lost his form.”

To be ridden by Karis Teetan from barrier six, Nervous Witness (116lb) faces 11 rivals including Voyage Warrior (133lb), Explosive Witness (130lb), Handsome Bo Bo (130lb) and We The South (128lb) at the top of the handicap.

Hayes hopes maturity will ultimately propel his precocious speedster into elite company.

“He’s physically mature, but he’s mentally not. He’s always in a little bit of a hurry. Once we contain his aggression, he’ll go all the way to the top but, at the moment, his one weakness is that he wants to get on with it a bit,” the dual champion Hong Kong trainer said. “I’d love him to be 10 percent more relaxed.”

Teetan, who has accumulated 30 wins this season, is optimistic Manfred Man’s Ever Laugh can successfully shoulder 133lb in the first section of the Class 4 Yue Man Handicap (1650m) after the gelding’s narrow last-start second to Off The Reel.

“I thought last time in the first part of the race, he travelled a bit hard and with a big weight, he still finished off a nice race,” Teetan said. “I thought he was still going to win the race but this time if he can relax more, save energy, it will be better for him.

“He will need some speed in the race, that will help him and he should finish off the race. He’s a big strong horse who can handle the weight but the key is to get some proper speed in the race.”

Fresh from successive Sha Tin doubles, Alexis Badel bids to continue his compelling recent form aboard Danny Shum’s Rise Brethren in the Class 3 Mut Wah Handicap (1800m).

“I think the horse is coming into great shape. He had a couple of runs before this race and he should be mature enough to run a good race. He’s never been the luckiest so far, but he’s certainly got ability,” the Frenchman said.

“I think the major thing is to make him jump good from the gate, he’s half a stride slow out of the gate and I think the challenge is to put him into a nice rhythm in the race. He certainly should be able to win a race like this.”

Stepping up from a last-start fifth behind talented Sight Spirit over 1600m at Sha Tin, Rise Brethren should appreciate the longer assignment, according to Badel.

“I definitely think the distance will be good for him. He feels good. He’s a fresh and happy horse, he gave me a nice feel in the mornings and he seems to be in great shape.”

Occupying fifth place in the jockeys’ championship with 26 wins behind Joao Moreira (74), Zac Purton (56), Teetan (30) and Vincent Ho (28), Badel is in the midst of another fruitful season.

“Hong Kong can be difficult sometimes, it’s handicap racing so when you lose the momentum it’s always about getting back into a nice rhythm. A couple of bad draws, suspensions, sometimes you just don’t get the best rides all the time and it’s very easy to lose that momentum,” Badel said.

Sunday’s meeting (6 February) at Happy Valley starts at 1pm with the Class 4 Yue Man Handicap (1650m).