Champions bounce back, it’s just what they do.
He may have lost his aura of invincibility with two recent defeats but all that did was make Hong Kong root for Golden Sixty even more and his legion of fans had their hearts lifted as the city’s superstar returned to his best with a sparkling win in the Group Two Chairman’s Trophy (1,600m) at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Champions taste defeat, it happens. Muhammad Ali, arguably the greatest athlete of all time, suffered five losses in his boxing career and was used to bouncing back off the ropes with regularity, and Golden Sixty took a leaf out of his playbook when floating up the Sha Tin straight and stinging his rivals to win by an easy two lengths.
Vincent Ho Chak-yiu had come in for criticism following those recent disappointments with many feeling he had given Golden Sixty too much to do when attempting to come from too far off the pace and the jockey employed different tactics here.
From a good draw in stall one, Golden Sixty broke quickly and Ho had him in a far more prominent position than usual, sitting just behind the pace set by Healthy Happy, Ka Ying Star and Waikuku.
Turning into the straight, Golden Sixty was full of running and showed all of his ability to effectively end the race as a contest with 300m to go with his acceleration taking him miles clear of the field.
Ho admitted that he was feeling the pressure going into this race and that it hurt knowing he had cost his mount a win two starts ago.
“It was only supposed to be the last race when he got beaten,” Ho said. “The one before, of course, I made a mistake and this time we drew one, we had a perfect run and he has a great turn of foot and it’s hard for horses behind to catch him.
“Two starts ago it was my mistake taking him that far back but as I’ve always said, you can put him wherever he wants. Nowadays he is six, more mature and he can relax – we don’t have to drag him back to force him to relax like when he was younger.”
Worryingly for his rivals, Ho feels that there is more to come from Golden Sixty, who was short of full fitness.
“He’s not at his top [form] yet, because he had some time off,” Ho said. “I would say he was only 70 to 80 per cent today, although he had a great turn of foot.
“He still has something to improve, which is ideal heading into the [Champions Mile] at the end of this month – this race will bring him on for sure.
Sha Tin hit by withdrawals again, while Ho and Sixty look to get mojo back
“He has so many fans – thank you to everyone who supports him and to Golden Sixty of course.”
Golden Sixty’s trainer Francis Lui Kin-wai had never lost faith in his star, who has now won more than HK$100 million, and he was thrilled that his star was back to his imperious best.
“You can see his form, he’s my champion,” Lui said. “His last two runs, he was just too far behind and Vincent had to come on the outside.
“He’s an honest horse, he can jump fast and you can put him anywhere you want, but the main thing is you have to relax him.”