There will be human and equine stars aplenty at Sha Tin on Sunday, but as has been the case for a few years now, all eyes will be on one galloper.
Two-time Horse of the Year Golden Sixty steps out for the first time since winning April’s Group One Champions Mile, and the galloper’s plethora of fans will wait with bated breath to see if their poster boy has still got it.
Jockey Vincent Ho Chak-yiu is quietly confident he has, and he has been most pleased by the appetite the six-time Group One winner has shown for going again.
“He still wants to do it, which is very nice, and he should still be at his top. He still feels very good,” Ho said during Golden Sixty’s build-up. “He’s still strong enough, and hopefully, he can do the same again this season.”
Golden Sixty enters his fifth campaign with nothing to prove, little to lose and with the opportunity to further entrench himself in the long and storied annals of Hong Kong racing.
Already the highest prize-money earner in Hong Kong racing history – whatever that is worth in a time of ever-inflating purses – with more than HK$113 million to his name, Golden Sixty’s 21 wins are a record for a Hong Kong-trained horse. No other locally prepared galloper has more than 18.
They are both marks you would back the seven-year-old to extend further, but it is only more elite-level success that can further inflate the magnificent miler’s legacy.
Victory in next month’s Group One Hong Kong Mile would see him join Good Ba Ba as the only three-time winners of the race.
Two more Group One wins would draw Golden Sixty level with the horse from whom he took over as the one true star of Hong Kong racing – Beauty Generation.
Even Beauty Generation could not manage a third straight Hong Kong Mile, and Golden Sixty will have to remain somewhere close to his best to achieve the feat second up against a field sure to feature strong international competition.
First things first, however, and that is the Francis Lui Kin-wai-trained gelding’s rematch with his most fearsome domestic foe, California Spangle, in Sunday’s Group Two Jockey Club Mile, which Golden Sixty has won in each of the past two seasons.
🏆 Champions Mile (G1)— 𝙒𝙤𝙧𝙡𝙙𝙍𝙖𝙘𝙞𝙣𝙜 (@WorldRacing1) April 24, 2022
1600m , 20.000.000 HKD, for 4yo+
Golden Sixty (AUS)
(5G Medaglia D'oro - Gaudeamus, by Distorted Humor)
J : C. Y. Ho
T :K.-W. Lui
O : Stanley Chan Ka Leung
B : Asco International Pty pic.twitter.com/iXBZAzuApp
Golden Sixty ran down California Spangle in the Champions Mile and pulled away to win by two lengths, but that was at the end of a busy four-year-old season for Tony Cruz’s rising star, and he has returned in fine fettle this season.
That clash also came at level weights, while Sunday’s contest will see Golden Sixty, as a Group One winner in the past 12 months, carry five pounds more than California Spangle.
Also, Golden Sixty is first up compared to the match-hardened California Spangle, who has won at Group Three and Group Two level to begin his campaign.
It is California Spangle’s swashbuckling front-running style and Golden Sixty’s sparkling late turn of foot that make this such an absorbing contest, and Ho will need to ensure he does not get too far back in the run.
Zac Purton should have no trouble assuming the lead aboard California Spangle from gate three, while Ho will hope to find some cover within a few lengths of the four-year-old from gate six of seven.
If Golden Sixty can again steam over the top of his younger rival, Ho – and the brilliant miler’s fans – will know for sure he has still got it.