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Hayes dominates season-opening with eye-catching treble

September 6, 2021, 6:53:36 AM

After the massive import's stunning victory in the Class 1 HKSAR Chief Executive's Cup Handicap (1200m) at Sha Tin on Sunday, 5 September, David Hayes has chosen the HK$24 million LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) on 12 December as Naboo Attack's major objective.

The dual champion Hong Kong handler delivered in style with a triple, which featured Nervous Witness's jaw-dropping debut victory, Lucky Maryknoll's triumph, and Naboo Attack's triumph in the program feature, confirming expectations that he was ready to have an instant effect on the 2021/22 term.

“It's a huge delight for me. “I didn't win one (a feature) last season, so it was nice to get back on the track and receive a trophy,” Hayes remarked before previewing the Naboo Attack's possible Group 1 action in December.

“Depending on handicapping, I think he'll still be around 100,” Hayes said. “We'll probably give him one more sprint in about a month and then seek to compete in the major races after that.”

“I think he'll get to a mile, but if he's winning in sprints, I'll simply keep him fresh.” His two most recent runs have been outstanding. After December, we might attempt extending him out (although the Hong Kong Sprint would be the first goal race).

“He's a horse that can run 1:07 off a fast tempo, which is good enough for December.”

After winning five of seven races for Hayes in Australia as Command ‘N' Conquer, the huge gelding is fast becoming a cult figure in Hong Kong - mostly because of his imposing height, but also because of his astonishing acceleration.

Naboo Attack, who weighed 1377 pounds, benefited from a barrier extension to alleviate the five-year-claustrophobia, old's which revealed after he missed the start in two barrier trials prior to his season-opening race.

The increased space behind the barriers was ideal for Naboo Attack, who quickly became acquainted with the pitch before settling in middle for Karis Teetan.

“With the unique gates and Karis having a couple of tries at learning him in the trials, he stood like a lamb,” Hayes added.

“When he leapt good, I simply thought he needed a little luck, which he received about the 300m and was able to get into his stride.” I believe he is a top-notch horse with plenty more to come.”

Teetan concurred, saying, "He's a wonderful horse, and he looked impressive when he won first up."

“I was just delighted to receive a ride on his horse with such a small weight (113lb), and he won like a true champion. I'm confident he'll get a mile. He has a fantastic turn of foot after you turn him off. The way he accelerated was an indication of a very exceptional horse.”

Nervous Witness' surprise victory in the Class 4 Lin Fa Shan Handicap (1000m) was described by Hayes as "the most remarkable debut I've had since I've been back in Hong Kong."

“As you like, that was pretty simple. Apart from his trial, he's never been let loose, which is part of what makes the horse so intriguing - he hasn't been hammered down for the race. Zac Purton doesn't seem to glance around all that often, does he?

“I could have ran him last season, but I believed he'd be better as a second-season horse, with a trial, a break, and then a build-up. I think he'll breeze through the classes, and I anticipate him to win a couple in a row.”

Purton, who was looking over his shoulder from the 300m mark to keep an eye on the rivals, was equally enamored with Star Witness's youngster.

“As far as first starts go, you expect the excellent ones to do that, right?” the Australian asked.

“It was simply a question of watching how he would react on race day. During the procession, he felt a little tense. He still has a lot to learn. He's clearly gifted with natural aptitude, and he moves fluidly. He was powerful all the way across the line, so he'll be a fun horse to ride in the future.”

Nervous Witness timed a fast 55.71s without being asked to stretch, wearing the same colors as Hong Kong record-holder Silent Witness.

Lucky Maryknoll is the sole female galloper in training in Sha Tin, having defeated 13 male opponents at a peak weight of 132lb for Ruan Maia, adding to Hayes' good fortune.

Purton was particularly optimistic about Danny Shum's Packing Victory, the first-place finisher in the Class 4 Yi Tung Shan Handicap (1200m).

“He possesses a great deal of raw natural ability. He's making a lot of mistakes. He hasn't gotten off to a good start. He starts galloping on the incorrect legs, but he doesn't stop.

“It (1200m) isn't his proper distance; he'll be more comfortable until he goes up to a mile and beyond,” Purton added.

Teetan completed the triple with victory on Tony Millard's Ezra in the Class 4 Ma On Shan Handicap (1600m) and Star Performance in the Class 3 Sunset Peak Handicap (1600m) (1400m).

“It's always nice to win on the first day because it takes the weight off your shoulders, and maybe he can go on and win another one,” trainer Tony Millard said of Ezra.

The final was won by champion jockey Joao Moreira, who rode Californiadeepshot to victory in the Class 2 Tai Mo Shan Handicap (1400m).

Jerry Chau won the Class 3 Lantau Peak Handicap after extending his increasingly successful partnership with Douglas Whyte's First Responder (1000m).

“I've rode him five times now for four wins, and I know a lot about him from last season,” Chau said.

“It's fantastic to get my stable and Jerry off to a good start—always it's nice to have a winner on the first day,” Whyte remarked. The horse has done an excellent job for my stable and has a great relationship with Jerry.”

“I'm pleased with that; it's critical to get off to a strong start in Hong Kong,” Leung added.

In the second section of the Class 4 Yi Tung Shan Handicap, Leung achieved a double on Manfred Man's Viva Hunter (1200m).

Mr. Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, Chief Executive Officer of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, said the meeting exceeded expectations, with audiences of 16,356 in Sha Tin and 1207 at Happy Valley for a total attendance of 17,563 and a season-opening turnover of HK$1.441 billion.

Mr. Engelbrecht-Bresges stated, "I personally believe it was the best start we could have asked for."

“Having our customers back on track created a fantastic mood. They witnessed outstanding athletic feats.

“With Naboo Attack, David Hayes had a fantastic start. He won the HKSAR Chief Executive's Cup for his outstanding performance.

“On the business side, turnover is at an all-time high — the highest for the start of the season (topping the previous high of HK$1.376 billion).” Personally, I believe it is a fantastic start to the season.

“I am extremely hopeful about the future. From both a sports and a business standpoint, we could not have asked for a better start.

“In the future, I expect Hong Kong racing will grow in strength.”

On Wednesday, September 8, Hong Kong racing resumes at Happy Valley.