Nervous Witness destroys his rivals again: ‘they just don’t do what he just did’

There was hardly a superlative left untouched as the David Hayes-trained Nervous Witness torched his rivals for a second time at Sha Tin on Friday afternoon.

Punters expected a demolition job and were not disappointed after sending Nervous Witness out at $1.20, with the terraces abuzz with chatter about the heights the four-year-old could reach after his three-and-three-quarter-length romp.

“They just don’t do what he just did – it was special,” jockey Zac Purton said. “He got it put to him today and he had to find and he didn’t just find, he put them away.”

Nervous Witness jumped cleanly but found himself in a battle for the lead with Brilliant Fortune in the Class Three Shanghai Handicap (1,000m), who set a willing tempo under Joao Moreira that was 0.83 of a second inside standard for the first 600m.

It was all Nervous Witness from there, the son of Star Witness – who races in the same silks as the famous Silent Witness – assuming the front 400m from home and motoring to the line under the urgings of Purton to stop the clock in 55.24 seconds, almost half a second quicker than his 55.71 on debut 26 days ago.

“I thought pre-race Moreira would try and torch him in the first half of the race, which he did – he really went out hard and tried to make it hard for both of us,” Purton said.

“My bloke, to his credit – it was only his second start in a race – he had to absorb all of that and he actually got stronger as the race went on. It was a really good performance.”

That it was Hong Kong win number 500 for Hayes was pushed largely into the background – “I’m happy to get that, it’s not a bad number” – as both trainer and jockey came to terms with what had just unfolded.

“Zac said he’s a Group One horse, he said he got put under a lot of pressure from Joao Moreira, he said he just served it to him,” Hayes said.

“You’d prefer him not to have that pressure but it’s nice to see how he responded. He responded like a proper horse.”

At the opposite end of the spectrum was Carroll Street, a smart galloper in his own right who was sent out a $7.30 second elect but got severely checked at the 600m and finished 13 lengths last.

Nervous Witness was the second Hayes-trained youngster to make it two from two on Friday’s card, with Lord Thunder also gapping his rivals in the Class Four Chengdu Handicap (1,200m).

Blake Shinn took Lord Thunder straight to the front from barrier three in his first start on the turf and it was an easy watch for those who piled into the $1.95, with the four-year-old pulling away to win by four lengths from E Brother despite running around late.

“It was a really good win because he’s learning to relax and he’s going to run further than 1,200m, so I think he’s got a really good future in Hong Kong,” Hayes said.

Shinn returned to the winner’s list for the first time since his four-timer on September 12 and is excited about what lies ahead for the gelding.

“He just needed a friend in the straight, a bit similar to his first start – he was probably going to win by three lengths [on debut] but just got lost when he went past the second horse,” Shinn said. “Today he quickened up and just got lost. He didn’t know how to really commit and put the field away.

“On one hand, it’s probably a little bit exciting because there’s more room to improve but when he goes up in class, he’s probably got to rectify those little habits. The great thing is that he’s learning, he’s talented and he’s progressive.”

Hayes and Purton were at it again with Master Montaro in the Class Two Beijing Handicap (1,400m), with the star jockey settling the talented galloper forward of midfield rather than in his customary back-marking role before steaming to victory.

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“It’s really satisfying to win because this horse was deemed not good enough to come to Hong Kong after his first win in Australia and now he’s in Class One, so he’s done a very good job,” Hayes said.

“I give all the credit for the win to Zac Purton – of course, the stable has done a great job – it was the best ride he’s done for me since he’s been in Hong Kong.”

Hayes completed his dominant afternoon by taking out the Group Three feature with Super Wealthy, his four-timer taking him five clear at the top of the trainers’ premiership with 12 wins, while Purton snagged a treble of his own to pull six clear of Moreira in their tussle for the jockeys’ title.

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