Hong Kong superstar Golden Sixty extended his stunning winning streak to 14 in the FWD Champions Mile – but he gave his fans heart palpitations in the process.
Francis Lui Kin-wai’s once-in-a-lifetime galloper might have panels on his rivals in theory – as his $1.20 price suggests – but he doesn’t like doing more than required, which makes his races much more of an adventure for his supporters.
Golden Sixty has now won four straight at Group One level, but the past three have been narrow – a head in the Stewards’ Cup, a short-head in the Hong Kong Gold Cup and a head again in Sunday’s Champions Mile.
Each time it has been a different challenger – it was Southern Legend and Furore on the first two occasions but this time it was someone closer to home, stablemate More Than This.
After Healthy Happy set a slow tempo through the first half of the race, Vincent Ho Chak-yiu made his move at the 600m, striding to the front of the six-horse field with ease by the top of the straight.
At that point, the question wasn’t if he would win, it was by how far?
But as is his want, the five-year-old switched off and More Than This, under the guidance of Joao Moreira, was hitting the line hard.
The 5,719 fans on course gasped – and many more around the globe as the streak looked to be in doubt – but Golden Sixty was just teasing and stuck his neck out in response to the challenge.
It was almost shades of the 2005 Champions Mile when Bullish Luck knocked over his legendary stablemate Silent Witness, ending his famous streak at 17, but this time the picket fence continues.
Lui admitted his heart was “pumping more” in the straight as More Than This loomed up to his stablemate but was delighted to capture the quinella.
“It looked like [he was going to go past] but Golden Sixty has some character,” Lui said. “When he passed all the horses he thought it was job done and he relaxed but when he saw another horse coming, he went again.”
Ho, who has been aboard for all of Golden Sixty’s 18 career starts, always had confidence he would be in front when it mattered.
“Usually, it takes a while for him to pick up but today they went dead slow. When I pulled out at the 600m, we were almost alongside them when I hit the straight,” he said.
“We learned that he can fight when something is chasing him, not just when he is doing the chasing, which is good.
“I could see Joao was coming and getting close but I felt my horse go again in the last 50m.”
Ho recommends that Golden Sixty has a break now, instead of trying to collect a HK$10 million bonus for completing the Triple Crown in the Champions & Chater Cup (2,400m).
“It’s been a good season – seven races for Golden Sixty. I’m happy for him to win this and hopefully he can have a break now until next season. He’s had a couple of tough runs,” he said.
But Lui kept the door ajar, for the moment.
“It depends on the next few days and how the horse recovers and we’ll decide after that,” he said. “The Triple Crown is a consideration. I think he can handle the [2,400m].”
Caspar Fownes’ uber-consistent veteran Southern Legend won the race last year and while he wasn’t able to defend his title, he collected his sixth-straight placing, with four of them coming at Group One level.
“We had a couple of setbacks with him coming into the race so he’s done a great job,” Fownes said. “You’d love to own him.”