One of this season’s most exciting sprinters attempts to continue his meteoric rise up the ranks at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Nervous Witness has risen 42 points in the ratings since the start of the season after three impressive victories and could wave goodbye to Class Two company if successful in the Chek Lap Kok Handicap (1,000m).
Trainer David Hayes has been happy with his star since his big win at Happy Valley last month and is confident the four-year-old is again ready to impress the Hong Kong public.
“If he runs to the amount of ability he’s got, he’s going to be very hard to beat, isn’t he?” Hayes said.
“I think he’d have to make a big mistake to get beaten. The only thing is that he ran two below-par races down the straight, although he was still placed, so I wonder if he’s a real around-the-bend horse.
“He got back into form last start and he’s trialled well since. He’s had a bit of a break between runs and he seems in similar form to the last run.”
Blake Shinn gets aboard Nervous Witness for the first time on Sunday but Hayes was forced into the jockey change after regular rider Zac Purton was booked for one of his rivals.
“Don’t read too much into it,” Hayes said. “Before Nervous Witness won last start, Zac had already booked himself for Stoltz in this.
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“There’s not many 1,000m races and this horse wasn’t in the picture before he came out and won and this was the only possible race for him. Zac had already taken a ride months out so I was happy to put Blake on.”
Hayes gave Nervous Witness a break after a couple of disappointing runs earlier this season and feels that has altered the sprinter’s temperament for the better.
“We concentrated on slow working, used earmuffs, pacifiers and crossover nosebands and
that seems to have done the trick with him,” Hayes said.
“He’s very willing but he was getting too willing and he’d lost his way and got beaten a couple of times.
“He was a little bit too aggressive in trackwork but he’s come back under the riders and seems a lot more relaxed. If he stays like that he should rocket through the 110-rating mark.”
While the barrier gods have been kind to Nervous Witness, who has the plum gate in stall nine of nine, they have been less helpful to Hayes’ other runners on the card, with the trainer’s best chances all handed double-figure draws.
Master Montaro will break from stall 10 in the Class Two Mui Wo Handicap (1,400m) and is a victim of his consistency.
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“He doesn’t drop in rating,” Hayes said. “He’s always very close to picking up a cheque so he doesn’t drop. He hasn’t won for a few runs but his last win was very impressive. He could be a horse that if he’s a having a good day, it wouldn’t surprise you if he won.”
Hayes also runs two promising youngsters in Star Contact in the second section of the Class Four Tong Fuk Handicap (1,400m) and Starry Night in the Class Four Tai O Handicap (1,200m), but both have been drawn in stall 12.
“It’s better to be drawn in stall 12 at Sha Tin than in 12 at Happy Valley and I think if they get a good run in transit, they should run into the top three,” Hayes said.
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