When you come at the king, you best not miss and Vincent Ho Chak-yiu ensured he landed a sizeable blow with his hotshot Golden Sixty against the long-time champ Beauty Generation at Sha Tin on Sunday.
The Group Three Celebration Cup (1,400m) was billed as a battle between the old and the new, with the young winning out in impressive fashion as Golden Sixty announced himself as Hong Kong’s new pin-up horse.
Beauty Generation lost no admirers in defeat, carrying the proverbial grandstand to dead-heat for second with John Size’s Champion’s Way while giving away 17 pounds to the winner.
Ho was able to cooly navigate the tricky early stages of the race, with Golden Sixty over-racing briefly before popping out at the top of the straight and putting his devastating turn of foot on display for all to see.
“I am very excited to be back on him, he felt really great and fresh today,” he said. “He was looking around and it showed he is ready to go. Before loading into the gate he was so calm so I am really happy with where he is at.
“He jumped well and the pace was a little bit slow, he was a bit fresh and keen but once Joao [Moreira] took off [on Champion’s Way], I could truck him up and then when I got the clear run I knew he would run him down.”
While trainer Francis Lui Kin-wai harboured no concerns about the Hong Kong Derby winner heading into the race, his performance in the parade ring had him fearing the worst.
“I must say I was confident because at trackwork he was showing his usual self, he really enjoyed the track work,” he said. “Before the race, in the parade ring, I worried about him because he was a bit excited but then in the race he was under control.”
In a warning shot to his rivals, Ho believes Golden Sixty’s brilliant best is still ahead of him, saying the star five-year-old was not fully fit.
A winner at 1,200m to 2,000m, connections are keeping their options open for December’s grand final at the Hong Kong International Races, saying he could race in either the Mile or the Cup (2,000m).
“He pulled up very well, it was a good blow for him and I am sure he needed that, I think he was at about 70 or 75 per cent fitness before the run so he should go up a bit more, of course we are aiming at December,” Ho said.
“I would say he is one of the best horses in Hong Kong at the moment, the main thing is keeping him healthy.”
For Lui, Sunday’s dominant victory vindicates his decision to bypass last season’s Champions Mile to allow the son of Medaglia d’Oro to mature.
“To see him come out today and win again, I am happy with that decision [to give him a break],” he said. “I think at the moment he is the best horse I have trained.”
In the meantime, a rematch at handicap conditions looms for Golden Sixty and Beauty Generation, with the former likely to give up a chunk of his weight advantage after Sunday’s win.
They are both headed to the Group Two Sha Tin Trophy (1,600m) on October 18 in what is the last handicapped event before the Group Two Jockey Club Mile in November.
“We will step-up in distance to the 1,600m and of course the main target is in December,” Lui said. “He looks like he is more mature now.”
Old warhorse Southern Legend showed he had lost none of his tenacity with a rallying fourth, putting him on track for another strong campaign.