Golden Sixty is back and he could be as good as ever after returning with a stunning victory in Sunday’s Group Two BOCHK Private Wealth Jockey Club Mile at Sha Tin.
The match race between Golden Sixty and California Spangle did not disappoint – the rising star made the seasoned pro earn his win – but any talk of a changing of the guard in Hong Kong’s mile division was emphatically snuffed out by the two-time Horse of the Year.
Punters that sent California Spangle off at $1.6 with sustained late support were licking their lips when Zac Purton reduced the race to a crawl with a first 800m 1.28 seconds outside standard aboard the favourite.
Golden Sixty travelled about three lengths off California Spangle under Vincent Ho Chak-yiu before kicking into gear at the 600m and mowing down the long-time leader with a final 400m of 21.32 seconds.
The roar of the 13,692-strong crowd – the biggest since New Year’s Day – as Golden Sixty drew level at the 100m then edged a neck clear whet appetites beautifully for next month’s Longines Hong Kong International Races, which the Jockey Club expects to attract 35,000 fans.
“It was crawling at first and at the turn I knew, around the 600m, that Zac will pick up the pace for sure, so I was just keeping an eye on what he was doing and I had to come out and make my move earlier,” Ho said.
“I knew Golden Sixty would have the heart to run him down, but he’s only 80 per cent fit, so the last bit is his mental toughness. Definitely all credit to him and the team – we’re looking forward to December now.”
If Ho is anywhere close to correct on Golden Sixty’s fitness levels in his first race since winning April’s Champions Mile, the gelding has a record-equalling third straight win in next month’s Group One Hong Kong Mile at his mercy.
Golden Sixty will meet California Spangle at level weights after carrying five pounds more than him on Sunday, and it would take something special from an overseas raider to deny him a seventh Group One success.
“Same like before, he has a very good fighting heart. When he came close to the front runner, he really wanted to pass him.” Lui said.
“Zac is a good jockey, and he knows how to manage the pace, but I think Vincent also knows Golden Sixty very well. He knows how to ride this horse.
“Honestly, he’s an easy horse to train, so I think after this race, his condition will improve.”
When quizzed about whether Golden Sixty has held the level that saw him win 21 of his 24 starts prior to this campaign, Lui pointed to his galloper’s maturity.
“His trackwork shows he’s more relaxed. We’re all happy to see him come back and win a race. Golden Sixty has brought us a lot of fun,” he said.
Golden Sixty’s 22nd win extended his record as the most successful Hong Kong-trained horse – no other locally prepared galloper has won more than 18 races – and pushed his prize money earnings past HK$116 million.
While Golden Sixty’s reign as Hong Kong’s best looks far from over, Tony Cruz is confident California Spangle can continue to build after rocketing to a rating of 127 with eight wins in 13 starts.
“I believe this horse still can improve. He’s fit and sound, and we’ll fight another day,” he said.
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