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David Hayes double-handed in G2 Sprint Cup

By: Leo Schlink   April 4 , 2024

When Tomodachi Kokoroe arrived in Hong Kong last year, David Hayes harboured modest ambitions with the gelding despite a statistically imposing record in Australia but, such has been speedster`s progress in his new surroundings, he has earned a tilt at Lucky Sweynesse in the HK$5.35 million G2 Sprint Cup (1200m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (7 April).

Dual Hong Kong champion trainer Hayes is happy to concede the galloper formerly known in Australia as Bank Bank Bank has exceeded expectations with four wins and three seconds from 15 starts, HK$7.4 million in prize money and a surge up the handicap this season from 61 to 92 and believes there is scope for even more improvement.

"When he arrived and I hadn`t worked him, I thought his Cairns form wouldn`t be good enough in Hong Kong," Hayes said, referencing the Written Tycoon gelding`s six straight wins at Cairns and Townsville for Ricky Ludwig.

"But the moment I worked him, I knew he had something and he`s gone above expectations - and I don`t think he`s finished. He looks like he`s training on nicely. This is his biggest test, of course."

Having posted a Class 4 win at Happy Valley in October, Tomodachi Kokoroe added two Class 3 victories before scoring in Class 1 two starts ago on 21 February.

To be ridden by Karis Teetan from barrier one on Sunday, Tomodachi Kokoroe (123lb) will press for his first victory at Sha Tin where the world`s top-rated sprinter Lucky Sweynesse will carry 128lb under Hugh Bowman, conceding five pounds to his opposition.

Each assigned 123lb, Lucky With You, Howdeepisyourlove, Duke Wai, Flying Ace, Adios, Whizz Kid, Invincible Sage, Packing Treadmill and Nervous Witness complete the field.

Tomodachi Kokoroe`s stablemate Nervous Witness has five 1000m victories in Hong Kong but is yet to succeed at 1200m, where the gelding has three placings from eight attempts at the distance.

"He`s never won at 1200 metres, but he`s had a couple of good seconds," Hayes said.

"I expect a big turnaround in form. First-up, he got left alone and won well. Second-up, he got attacked by three horses that all finished out the back. There mightn`t be quite the pressure in the big sprint this Sunday and if there is a little less pressure up front, he could turn his form around quickly."

Along with Lucky Sweynesse, Lucky With You, Howdeepisyourlove, Duke Wai, Flying Ace, Adios and Invincible Sage, Tomodachi Kokoroe and Nervous Witness are entered for the HK$22 million G1 Chairman`s Sprint Prize (1200m) at Sha Tin on 28 April, when G1 Al Quoz Sprint (1200m) winner California Spangle and Victor The Winner are also likely to feature for Hong Kong.

The HK$5.35 million G2 Chairman`s Trophy (1600m) also highlights this weekend`s Sha Tin card with a 13-horse field headed by Russian Emperor.

Douglas Whyte`s dual Hong Kong Champion Stayer will carry 128lb, while Beauty Eternal, Beauty Joy, Sword Point, Nimble Nimbus, Red Lion, Encountered, Healthy Happy, Money Catcher, Taj Dragon, Super Sunny Sing and The Best Peach are all assigned 123lb.

Several of the city`s leading trainers and jockeys are the brink of significant landmarks, including dual champion trainer Tony Cruz (1,499), four-time champion handler Caspar Fownes (1,098), six-time champion jockey Zac Purton (1,697) and 2019/20 champion trainer Ricky Yiu (994).

Sunday`s (7 April) 10-race card at Sha Tin starts with the Class 5 Severn Handicap (1400m) at 12.45pm.

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