Carrying the weight of Hong Kong and more on his shoulders, Golden Sixty will make his highly anticipated return to racing in Sunday’s (20 November) G2 BOCHK Private Wealth Jockey Club Mile (1600m) as trainer Francis Lui plots a third straight win in December’s G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m) with the champion racehorse.
Speaking at trackwork this morning (Tuesday, 15 November), Lui affirmed the reigning two-time Hong Kong Horse of the Year (2020/21 & 2021/22) is ready ahead of his reappearance as he chases a hat-trick of wins in this weekend’s HK$5 million mile race.
“He’s fit, it’s his first time running this season but he’s fit. He’s more mature and relaxed,” Lui said. “He’s still strong enough and hopefully he can do the same again this season.”
A 21-time winner in Hong Kong, Golden Sixty returns this time around as a seven-year-old with HK$113,400,600 banked and six Group 1 wins – figures Lui hopes to better.
“We do the same with him, there are no changes. In trackwork he is the same but in the stable you have to be careful if you go inside his box – even if you touch him, you have to be careful,” Lui said.
Golden Sixty faces six rivals this weekend: California Spangle, More Than This, Turin Redsun, Kings Shield, Waikuku and Excellent Proposal, while Lui remains unconcerned regarding the quirks that small fields can present at times.
“Sometimes if it’s a full field he has to tail off with a bad draw but against a small field, it’s better, even if the pace isn’t fast enough,” Lui said.
Vincent Ho will be in the plate as always on race day after partnering Golden Sixty in a gallop on the turf this morning at Sha Tin, clocking 1m 19.60s (29.1, 28.8, 21.7) alongside stablemate Highland Fortune.
California Spangle – one of Hong Kong’s most rapidly improving prospects – is the likely leader of the race this weekend, while Golden Sixty should do the chasing from the tail of the field as per usual.
“California Spangle is up-and-coming, Golden Sixty is a seven-year-old so he can only keep his form, while California Spangle can improve and maybe one day he can beat my horse but you never know which race,” Lui said.
The last time the pair met, Golden Sixty won the 2022 G1 FWD Champions Mile (1600m) in April, while California Spangle filled second a further two lengths away.
Ahead of Golden Sixty’s return, Lui has a four runners at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (16 November): Gold Gold Baby, Gallant Waking, The Irishman and Rising From Ashes.
Gold Gold Baby shoots for a hat-trick of wins in the Class 4 Nakayama Handicap (1200m) after twice prevailing over 1000m this term, while Gallant Waking – if improvement permits – could be on a 2023 Four-Year-Old Classic Series trail.
“Gallant Waking is ok, he doesn’t have a good draw but we’ll see how he goes in this race, and if he keeps improving we might think about the Four-Year-Old Classic Series. He keeps improving but it’s not a big improvement each time, just step-by-step,” Lui said.
Gallant Waking lines up in the Class 3 Japan Racing Association Trophy Handicap (1200m) under Vincent Ho and the pair steps away from gate 12.
The Irishman was impressive for Lui last start with victory at Sha Tin and will tackle the Class 2 Tokyo Handicap (1650m) as one of two in the race for owner Edmond Lee who is also represented by the Peter Ho-trained Packing Award.
“He’s (The Irishman) doing well. His rating (97) at the moment, there’s not much choice, so we have to try him at Happy Valley. You never know if it will suit him,” Lui said.
Lui’s final chance at the midweek fixture comes with Rising From Ashes who features in the Class 3 Hanshin Handicap (1650m) after charging into second place last start.
“He’s (Rising From Ashes) a skinny horse but he’s honest and he always tries his best,” Lui said.
Following Zac Purton’s withdrawal from Wednesday due to COVID, Hugh Bowman was set to be a prime beneficiary of his compatriot’s absence, however, Bowman was then ruled out as a close contact, opening the door for Jye McNeil to partner the last-start winning Comet Splendido in the Hanshin Handicap for Danny Shum.
“He’s got the right profile to suggest a good run tomorrow night, he’s drawn well and he seems to be going the right way to potentially give me my first victory. It’s unfortunate for Hugh Bowman but my benefit,” McNeil said.
Wednesday’s (16 November) nine-race fixture at Happy Valley kicks off with the first section of the Class 5 Fukushima Handicap (1200m).