Hayes seeks elusive prize
David Hayes will be trying to complete some unfinished business with Niconero when he runs in Sunday’s Group One QEII Cup at Sha Tin.
During his stint of nearly a decade in Hong Kong, Hayes’ best finishes in the race were with Elegant Fashion who was third behind Falbrav and Ratki in 2003 and runner-up to River Dancer in 2004.
"I did say we’d taken his passport away after he won the Futurity, but our options opened up after he won at the 2000 metres for the first time (in the Australian Cup) and we reassessed the situation," Hayes told the Hong Kong Jockey Club.
The gelding failed on a previous trip to Hong Kong when 12th of 13 behind Bullish Luck in the 2006 Group One Champions Mile, while he finished 11th to Jay Peg in last year’s Dubai Duty Free.
The five-time Group One winner goes into the Hong Kong feature after running a strong fourth in the $US5 million Dubai Duty Free (1777m) behind Gladiatorus at his most recent start on March 28.
That followed successive Group One wins in the Futurity Stakes (1600m) – first leg of the Asian Mile Challenge – at Caulfield and the Australian Cup (2000m) at Flemington.
"He’d fretted and just not done well when stabled alone on previous overseas trips, but we thought he might be able to turn it around if he had company in the barn and that proved the case in Dubai," Hayes said
"He’s a more mature horse now and he’s coping better with the travel.
"The Dubai race was very strong this year and I think we can take real heart from his performance there. The QEII Cup will be no pushover but you could argue there was greater depth in the Duty Free so we’re pretty optimistic."
Niconero, to be ridden by Craig Williams, has raced 32 times at Group One level and finished in the first four on 17 occasions.