Golden Sixty took another important step toward December’s LONGINES Hong Kong International Races riches with victory in Sunday’s Gr2 Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy Handicap at Sha Tin, a result that all but confirmed a changing of the guard at the very top of Hong Kong’s pecking order.
The Francis Lui-trained gelding scored his ninth straight win and his 12th from 13 starts as he comfortably despatched several of Hong Kong’s best performers of recent seasons including dual Horse of the Year Beauty Generation.
Last season’s Four-Year-Old Classic Series champion, under Vincent Ho, quickened from the middle of the pack with a closing 400 metres clocked at 21.81s – his fastest closing 400 metres since a slick 21.65s recorded when he won in Class 2 at this fixture last year – beating Encouraging, the 1400m Sha Tin track record holder.
Adding further merit to his time and performance, the Medaglia d’Oro gelding seemingly switched off once he hit the front as if the job was done, but a few reminders from Vincent Ho followed and he kicked on for a soft half-length win, with Ka Ying Star in second, Southern Legend in third, while Beauty Generation faded to sixth.
“He does switch off, two maybe three strides after he hits the front, he always does – that’s why he never wins by huge margins,” Ho said.
The newly turned five-year-old, who swept aside his four-year-old peers last season, followed his first-up G3 Celebration Cup Handicap (1400m) success with another impressive display which confirms he is Hong Kong’s new star.
“He’s come on really well and today he settled a lot more, really well behind the gate and inside the gate, he was so relaxed and with each run his fitness is coming on,” Ho said.
With December’s G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile on the radar, Golden Sixty firmly set himself as Hong Kong’s leading contender en route to December glory in the division which local horses have generally dominated.
“Before the race I was a bit nervous, but now I’m happy – the horse, his mind and fitness is improving, we’ll keep him at the same distance,” trainer Francis Lui said.
Vincent Ho and Golden Sixty broke evenly to settle midfield, fifth in the run before peeling out at the 300m mark to hit the front, holding on for a half-length score.
“He jumped well, we sat behind the pace and they went really slow, when the other horse accelerated a bit – I just gave him a reminder – he’s a very smart horse.
“He always tends to lay in a little bit – Chad (Schofield) was on my inside and I think once Golden Sixty hit the front he thought the job was done, he sort of put his head up and started looking around and I had to remind him that there was someone coming back on the inside,” Ho said.
Chad Schofield spoke of the willingness of his mount, Ka Ying Star who finished a close-up second: “Good run, he likes to control the race from the front like he did today, he kicked well and to my bloke’s credit he fought hard to the line.”
Karis Teetan, rode third placed Southern Legend, and was pleased with the effort of the dual Singapore G1 Kranji Mile victor who is also on a Hong Kong Mile trail.
“If we had a draw he would have been more competitive. I had to face the breeze all-the-way but he still ran very well,” Teetan said