Golden Sixty’s winning streak was one constant Hong Kong had to cling to throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and to say things have gone pear-shaped for the city since it ended would be the mother of all understatements.

The reigning Horse of the Year had his unbeaten run ended at 16 races in the Stewards’ Cup on January 23 and pretty much ever since Hong Kong’s case count has risen and things in the city have gone from bad to worse to laughable.

Could an emphatic return to his best from Francis Lui Kin-wai’s Golden Sixty in Sunday’s Group One Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (2,000m) give way to greener pastures for the city?

No doubt it’s a stretch but, if nothing else, jockey Vincent Ho Chak-yiu hopes a blistering performance from Golden Sixty can provide some welcome relief for Hong Kong’s racing fans as a fifth wave of Covid-19 grips the population like none that has come before it.

“Hopefully we can cheer everyone up a bit,” he said. “This horse can do that.”

Golden Sixty chases back-to-back victories in the Gold Cup but Ho has revealed that connections left the decision to defend the galloper’s title in the 2,000m contest so late that he didn’t even have time to secure a ride in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1,400m).

“I thought we were going to the 1,400m but Francis decided to go to the 2,000m and I was too late to find another ride. It probably cost Stronger a race because Douglas [Whyte] also thought we were going to the 1,400m at first,” Ho said, referencing the galloper he piloted to victory in last month’s Group One Centenary Sprint Cup.

“We were very likely to go to the 1,400m but Francis said 2,000m the day before entries. I think he thought 1,400m would be too sharp but to be honest I don’t see it as being too sharp for us. There’s only eight horses in the 1,400m.”

While confident Golden Sixty would have delivered the goods at the shorter trip, he is equally bullish about the six-year-old’s chances of improving his unblemished record at 2,000m to three from three.

“He’s all good for 2,000m – not a problem,” Ho said, before adding that he’s more than comfortable with jumping from the outside alley of 10 after gate one contributed to Golden Sixty’s downfall in the Stewards’ Cup.

“It’s pretty good actually, I’m pretty happy. He can just be where he is comfortable and as long as he relaxes, it’s all good. Definitely we will be in touch over 2,000m and we can pick up whenever we want, basically.”

After dethroning the champ, Waikuku and Zac Purton stalk more Group One glory

Golden Sixty’s two wins at 10 furlongs have been tight – a neck over Playa Del Puente in the Derby and a short-head over Furore in this race last year – but Ho suggested the latter of those two performances was perhaps better than it appeared.

“In last year’s Gold Cup Joao [Moreira] saved every bit of ground and Furore was at the top of his form at that time, while we were running five and six wide around the turn,” Ho said.

With the Caspar Fownes-trained Columbus County withdrawn on Saturday morning because of a swollen neck, Golden Sixty will face nine rivals headlined by Russian Emperor, Panfield and More Than This.