The undisputed king of Hong Kong racing is back and he looks better than ever.
Golden Sixty extended his winning streak to 15 as he made his seasonal return in the Group Two BOCHK Private Wealth Jockey Club Mile (1,600m) at Sha Tin on Sunday with an utterly breathtaking display.
The six-year-old was a clear last at the halfway mark despite the leaders crawling early before picking up the pace from the 800m, so if his rivals were ever going to beat him – first-up off a seven-month break – this was the day.
But jockey Vincent Ho Chak-yiu was unperturbed, letting Golden Sixty creep around the field on the turn before getting busy with 200m to go, his trademark finishing burst carrying him past two-time Group One winner Waikuku and reigning Hong Kong Derby champ Sky Darci.
His final 400m sectional was a brilliant 21.51 seconds – clearly the fastest of the day – and as racecaller Mark McNamara so eloquently described, “it’s a Ferrari against six Hong Kong taxi cabs”.
It was the sort of performance that should make any potential visitors think twice about making the trip for next month’s Hong Kong Mile, or make the switch to the 2,000m of the Hong Kong Cup, which is ripe for the picking.
Even more ominously, Ho is adamant there is improvement to come, which should get fans excited about just what he could achieve this campaign.
“It was a nice run, I think we both enjoyed that. It was the perfect draw on the outside with no speed in the race,” the jockey said.
“He relaxed very well behind and just trucked through, saved some ground until the straight and he was able to cruise up easily and as usual, he did his job.
“He saw the winning post and he was sort of already ‘job done’ and he tried to slow down but I said ‘just give me two extra strides, please’.
“There were no concerns [with the slow speed] because his sprint home as a miler can be 21-something [seconds] so in this field it was difficult for them to actually sprint with me.
“He wasn’t at his best today and we’re still building him up. After this race he should be pretty close to top form. We’ll see how he pulls up and do some recovery work for him and get ready for the internationals.”
Trainer Francis Lui Kin-wai believes Golden Sixty has improved again in his time off – particularly in terms of his attitude.
“In the morning at trackwork he’s been quite impressive, he’s more mature than last season. I discussed it with Vincent and he seemed happy with the training and how he was behaving at trackwork,” Lui said. “I must say we were confident in this race but I’m happy to see him win again.
“This horse has got a very good fighting heart and once he relaxes he has a very good turn of foot.”
Golden Sixty, who jumped a $1.1 favourite, has now saluted in 18 of his 19 starts and is just two victories shy of matching Silent Witness’ Hong Kong record of 17 consecutive wins. The son of Medaglia d’Oro has also collected in excess of HK$80 million in prize money.
With Golden Sixty having all the locals covered in the Hong Kong Mile, his main challengers are likely to come from aboard.
It’s a shame there will be no head-to-head contest between he and Japanese mare Gran Alegria, who capped off her brilliant career by collecting her sixth Group One in Sunday’s Mile Championship at Hanshin, her final start.
However, runner-up Schnell Meister and fourth-placed horse Indy Champ both hold entries to the Mile and could provide a challenge, with the final fields for the December features announced on Wednesday.