Graham Cunningham: Hayes returns with The Summit and Malotru among top imports
The Valley is back – not quite in full force with crowds still absent – but Hong Kong's spectacular city circuit is up and running for its first meeting of the season this Wednesday when eight-race card gets under way on Sky Sports Racing at 12.15.
Hayes has it all tied up with first-day double
A little help from on high is useful on big days and David Hayes chose a tie once owned by his legendary training father Colin for day one of the second phase of his Hong Kong training career at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Moneymore and Metro Warrior duly supplied him with a double and Hayes, who was champion handler twice during his previous HK stint, was thrilled to break his duck at the first time of asking.
"This is really special because it's a new chapter for me," said the 57-year-old. And that new chapter includes welcoming several exciting European imports including dual French Classic runner-up The Summit and Prix Jean Prat third Malotru, who are booked on a flight to join the Hayes academy this weekend.
Yeung sharing in Hayes success
Early signs suggest Hayes is very happy to look beyond the obvious in his choice of riders and homegrown lightweight Keith Yeung, who partnered Moneymore, is relishing his link with a man he describes as "sharing and caring" and "a world-class trainer."
The pair link up again at the Valley when Urban Dancer lines up for the Fortress Hill Handicap (2.45). Stall ten is not perfect for a horse who looked ordinary in five runs for Benno Yung last term but, like Moneymore, his morning trials suggest that Hayes is poised to present him as a much more potent force.
Low draws could be key
Much is made about the draw at the Valley and the notable angles for Wednesday's action on the B course are as follows:
Evidence suggests no strong bias in 1000m (five furlongs) dashes but a low number is handy in two-turn sprints, with 40 of the last 72 winners over 1200m (six furlongs) drawn between one and four.
Inside gates are equally prized with a short run to the first bend over 1650m (1m), with 33 of the last 63 winners drawn in the first four and only four of the last 105 horses drawn wide in 11 and 12 managing to salute.
Early pace key to midweek feature
Fiery fractions look set to play a part in the first division of Wednesday's Causeway Bay Handicap (3.15) as Flying Bonus and Little Bird look set to go into battle early.
California Rad is another with plenty of speed but he certainly does not have to lead to show his best form. The Toby Cruz-trained gelding, fairly drawn under Karis Teetan in stall six, looks a leading player based on a fine first season in HK and a solid recent trial.
Progressive Schofield hoping for some smooth Jazz
Chad Schofield's progress into fifth place in the jockeys' table was one of the more unsung success stories of last season and the 26-year-old is hoping the progressive Jazz Steed can get his new season up and running in Wednesday's Quarry Bay Handicap (2.15).
The five-year-old was a typical Caspar Fownes improver at the Valley last season and still looks ahead of the game from a mark of 54.
"I think there is more to come from him, he really hit his straps towards the end of last season," said Schofield. "He's drawn a nice enough gate [tall six] and I thought his trial on the grass the other day was quite good, so I'm expecting a forward showing."
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