He may have relinquished his long unbeaten run this season but Golden Sixty picked up his second consecutive Horse of the Year title at the Jockey Club’s Champion Awards on Friday night.
Despite his 16-race winning streak coming to an end in the Stewards’ Cup and that defeat being followed by another loss in the Hong Kong Gold Cup, Francis Lui Kin-wai’s six-year-old broke Beauty Generation’s record to become the city’s leading prize-money earner with stakes of more than HK$113 million.
Group One wins in the Hong Kong Mile and the Champions Mile ensured that Golden Sixty also retained his crown as Champion Miler and, although his aura of invincibility may have been dented, he clearly retains his place in the hearts of the Hong Kong racing public after again winning the vote to be named the Most Popular Horse of the Year for the third year in a row.
After sweeping the board last year, Golden Sixty’s three category successes means he is one down on last year with the award of Champion Middle-Distance Horse heading the way of Romantic Warrior.
The four-year-old sensation won seven of his eight races this season and became the first graduate of the Hong Kong International Sale to win the Derby after beating California Spangle in a thrilling battle that will live long in the memory.
The son of Acclamation then took his form to another level when beating older horses in the Group One QE II Cup to become only the fifth horse after Werther (2016), Designs On Rome (2014), Ambitious Dragon (2011) and Vengeance of Rain in (2015) to win the Derby and QE II Cup in the same season.
Romantic Warrior’s stellar season, in which his rating rose from 52 to 122, ensured that he was also awarded the honours for Most Improved Horse and Champion Four-Year-Old.
Wellington’s tremendous end to the season guaranteed him the title of Champion Sprinter.
The winner of his final three races, which included Group One successes in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup and the Chairman’s Sprint Prize, the five-year-old has now won three Group One races in all and has won 10 of his 16 career starts for prize money of more than HK$40 million.
Clearly the best sprinter around in Hong Kong at the moment, he may well get the chance to showcase his ability on the international stage at some point in the next 12 months if he retains his form next season.
Russian Emperor was one of the horses to beat Golden Sixty this season in rain-softened conditions in the Gold Cup but he proved that Group One victory was no fluke by adding another in the Champions & Chater Cup in May.
Riding legend Douglas Whyte has made a fine start to training and is now responsible for his first champion after Russian Emperor was named the top stayer at the awards ceremony.
The Champion Griffin award went the way of Lucky Sweynesse, who is rising through the ratings at a remarkable pace. Manfred Man Ka-leung’s three-year-old started off a mark of 52 at Class Four level but after four wins in six starts he is plying his trade at Class Two level off a mark of 88 and he could round off his season in style with a win at Sha Tin on Saturday.
This season’s jockeys’ championship reaches a thrilling conclusion this weekend with Joao Moreira and Zac Purton heading into the final meeting on Saturday locked together on 132 winners.
But it appears as if Hong Kong’s racing fans are pulling for an Australian success on the final day with Purton winning the award for Most Popular Jockey of the Year.