By Declan Schuster, Hong Kong Jockey Club
History repeated for trainer David Hayes at Sha Tin as he landed the first win of his Hong Kong return, with his first runner, just as he did 25 years ago when he first arrived.
“It was race two and in Class 5, 25 years ago, so it’s a long time ago to remember but it’s a really big thrill,” Hayes said.
Esteemed in 1995 took the Class 5 Ocean Park Handicap over 1200m, and today, it was Moneymore who claimed the Class 5 Kowloon Peak Handicap, also over 1200m.
Today is Father’s Day in Australia and Hayes paid tribute to his late father, Colin Hayes, “this is really special because it’s a new chapter for me, it’s Father’s Day and I’m wearing my late father’s tie to bring me a bit of luck,” Hayes said.
Colin Hayes is one of only four inductees to be elevated to “Legend” status in the Australian Racing Hall of Fame, the others: Bart Cummings, George Moore (11 times champion trainer in Hong Kong) and Tommy Smith.
“I’m very excited and especially happy for Keith (Yeung), he’s done a lot of work on the horse and he was very confident going into it and rode the horse perfectly.”
“He lost his balance a little bit upon straightening, he got on the wrong leg as you would say but to Keith’s (Yeung) credit he got him back on the right leg and he was very strong over the last 100 metres,” Hayes said.
The Reward For Effort gelding broke from gate eight to settle worse than midfield before peeling out to register a gritty half-length success. Hayes suggested that the six-year-old could further lift his rating as the season progresses.
“It’s good to see a horse trial well and then run well, it means they’re putting their form together, so he might be a horse to follow in the lower grade races in the next month or so,” Hayes said.
The gelding was a 22-start maiden in Hong Kong before today’s win. He’d earlier raced twice in Australia for one win and after arriving on a rating of 70, his rating figure had slipped to a career-low of 25 before today.
“He works like a horse that if he was home, he would be a midweek city horse in Australia, his trackwork suggests that.
“If he had won a race before I would have been a lot more confident but some horses work well and run like pussycats, so I was pleased to see him show a lot of fight and get the job done,” Hayes said.
But Hayes wasn’t done after race two, the Australian took home a first-day double thanks to a driving finish from Hong Kong’s champion jockey Zac Purton on Metro Warrior in the Class 3 Lantau Peak Handicap (1000m). That win secured a double for Purton, who earlier won the first section of the Class 4 Yi Tung Shan Handicap (1200m) aboard Bright Kid.
“I was very pleased to have the champion on in the last 200 metres, he knows how to hit the line Zac (Purton) doesn’t he?” Hayes said.
“I thought his trial was a bit below par but the blinkers really sharpened him up and the trial brought him on, it was a solid win and hopefully he can get another one of those,” the handler said.
Hayes said a stint on Conghua was on the cards. “I hope so, I pushed him pretty hard for this race, so I might send him to Conghua for a bit of a change in environment,” he said.
Hayes had trained Metro Warrior in Australia where he was named Viking Warrior and was a two-time winner.
“I trained him in Australia and was quite a handy horse, he was very well bought by the syndicate – they got him for a steal,” he said.
Today’s double takes Hayes to 460 Hong Kong wins and he has four entrants for Wednesday’s Happy Valley card.
Winston’s Lad secured a hat-trick of wins, taking the second section of the Class 4 Yi Tung Shan Handicap (1200m) for Vincent Ho and Francis Lui.
Karis Teetan and Me Tsui combined in the last with the consistent Mongolian King, who claimed the Class 2 Tai Mo Shan Handicap (1400m), while Joao Moreira bagged a treble to take the outright lead on the premiership table.
Hong Kong racing continues this Wednesday (9 September) at Happy Valley.