Covid-19 restrictions and the “risk” of taking Golden Sixty overseas went hand in hand when connections delivered the entirely expected decision not to tackle June’s Group One Yasuda Kinen (1,600m) in Japan with the brilliant miler.
Now, we will get a better window into exactly what was holding back trainer Francis Lui Kin-wai and owner Stanley Chan Ka-leung after Golden Sixty showed with his superb victory in a gripping Stewards’ Cup that he has well and truly outlasted the constraints of the pandemic.
Jockey Vincent Ho Chak-yiu could not hide his disappointment when travel plans were shelved last season, suggesting “they probably don’t want to take the risk to travel the horse to a different track” and “there are also all the Covid-19 restrictions”.
It is again Ho leading the charge around giving Golden Sixty the chance to test himself abroad, putting both March’s Group One Dubai Turf (1,800m) and the Yasuda Kinen on the table after delivering an ice-cold ride on Sunday.
AN EPIC! 🤯🤯 Golden Sixty takes out the 2023 Stewards' Cup ahead of Romantic Warrior and California Spangle under @Vincenthocy for Francis Lui. #TripleCrown | #HKracing pic.twitter.com/c2jV9SNm9u— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) January 29, 2023
Lui was less enthusiastic, suggesting post race he “still would like to go” overseas at some stage before telling the Post on Monday “you never know, I think the next step should be to race in Hong Kong and then decide”.
There is obvious hesitance from some Hong Kong owners when it comes to taking horses abroad, with fears they might not be the same galloper on return. Plenty believe the Jockey Club does not exactly go out of its way to dispel that theory as it looks to keep its best talent at home to protect the ratings of its biggest races.
That will be tested in the next few months, with Golden Sixty – by showing, as a seven-year-old in his fifth season, he may just be as good as he has ever been – offering connections an unexpected final chance to exhibit a little sporting enterprise and throw caution to the wind with Hong Kong’s best horse.
Spangle to step back in trip
While the Group One Hong Kong Gold Cup (2,000m) – where he would again meet Romantic Warrior – the Group One Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1,400m) and the Dubai Turf all seem to remain on the table for Golden Sixty’s next start, Tony Cruz is keeping it simple with California Spangle.
The Hong Kong Mile champion, who finished third on Sunday, will step back to seven furlongs for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup on March 19 and look to maintain his unbeaten record at the trip after snaffling September’s Group Three Celebration Cup.
While it may not reach the lofty heights of the Stewards’ Cup, the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup could still be a ding-dong clash if reigning champion Wellington and Lucky Sweynesse also end up in the field, let alone Golden Sixty.
A Covid positive of a different sort
With Covid-positive people who are asymptomatic allowed to go to work as of Monday, Jockey Club chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges has confirmed infected jockeys can ride provided they pass a “medical examination”.
“It’s not only whether you’re positive, but are you fit to ride?” Engelbrecht-Bresges said.
“If somebody is asymptomatic and has no other indications of being impacted [they can ride]. We’ll treat it the same as the flu – the key issue is they have to be physically fit. We’ll still have them separated from the others, because we still have a limited number of jockeys.”
The Jockey Club will also scale back its rigorous testing regime, which saw jockeys tested every day.