Francis Lui Kin-wai spent two decades as the hunter so he admits it is a different feeling waking up each morning as the hunted thanks to his superstar Golden Sixty, but he wouldn’t trade it for anything.
The veteran handler has had good horses come and go from his stable over a 25-year career, but never one of Golden Sixty’s calibre, who is primed to grab his second Group One on Sunday in the Stewards’ Cup (1,600m), where he will be a prohibitive odds-on favourite.
The five-year-old is the great new hope of Hong Kong racing and with that comes huge expectations but Lui, who celebrated his 62nd birthday on Friday, is happy to live in the moment because he knows there will come a day when it is all over.
“Of course, it is always exciting when you have a horse like him – it is the dream for trainers, jockeys and owners – anyone involved with it,” he said.
“One day he will get beaten by an up-and-coming horse, it is just what happens so I have learned to enjoy this moment.”
The son of Medaglia d’Oro has continued to raise the bar in each of his 15 starts, which have returned 14 wins and almost HK$53 million in prize money thanks to a clean sweep of last year’s four-year-old series and December’s Group One Hong Kong Mile.
Vincent Ho Chak-yiu will again be in the saddle with the jockey returning from suspension to ride the superstar.
With a dearth of suitable races, Lui expects to head to the Group One Hong Kong Gold Cup (2,000m) next month instead of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup over 1,400m, which sets him on a collision course with the likes of Exultant, Furore and Rise High again, who he will meet on Sunday.
Lui has previously spoken about his global ambitions for Golden Sixty, but with international travel a pipe dream currently, dominating Hong Kong will have to do.
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After romping in against high-class internationals in December’s Hong Kong Mile, Golden Sixty is expected to take care of business on Sunday and Lui said he could not be in better order heading into the race.
“His trial was OK, he was a bit keen when he started back [in work] but then he had a grass gallop and then another one this morning which I was happy about,” he said.
“[On Friday] morning I just asked Vincent to take it easy because he always wants to go, he is very keen. He is a horse that is just always keen, that has been him from day one.
“In races, now he is more relaxed then ever because he knows what to do.”
Aiming for his 12th consecutive victory, Golden Sixty has just Silent Witness’ record of 17 undefeated runs in front of him after leaving Beauty Generation and Co-Tack (10 wins) in his wake.
An undefeated season could potentially leave his streak at 15 should he follow the typical pattern.
With just seven rivals in the race, Golden Sixty will face fellow Group One winners Waikuku and Southern Legend along with Rise High, Ka Ying Star, Mighty Giant, Champion’s Way and More Than This.