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Golden Sixty to defend Gold Cup crown as overseas mission shapes as very unlikely

Trainer Francis Lui Kin-wai has confirmed Golden Sixty will defend his crown in the Group One Hong Kong Gold Cup (2,000m) on February 20 rather than stepping back to the 1,400m of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup.

There were suggestions Lui was going to wait until after Golden Sixty’s trial on Tuesday morning to decide which race he would target with his champion miler, but he confirmed on

Monday the direction he is heading.

“Entries were today so I had to make a decision. I think the 2,000m field is a bit weaker and I

also think a mile back to 1,400m is a bit sharp for him,” Lui said. “He’s going well but we will see more tomorrow.”

Golden Sixty had his 16-race unbeaten streak ended at the hands of Waikuku in last month’s Stewards’ Cup and returns to 2,000m for the first time since defeating Furore by a short-head to win last year’s Gold Cup.

The six-year-old, who is unbeaten at 10 furlongs after also winning the 2020 Hong Kong Derby at the trip, faces 10 rivals in the Gold Cup.

Group One winner Panfield is there, as is Hong Kong Cup third placegetter Russian Emperor, while Butterfield, Columbus County, More Than This, Reliable Team, Savvy Nine, Sky Darci, Tourbillon Diamond and Zebrowski round out the entries.

Sky Darci returns to 2,000m for the first time since his win in last year’s Derby, while Zebrowski steps into Group One company in Hong Kong for the first time after consecutive Group Three victories at 1,800m.

Whether Golden Sixty can return to winning ways or not, his potential trip to Japan for June’s Yasuda Kinen is becoming less likely by the day.

“I think it’s going to be very difficult, the virus is very serious and we don’t know what is going to happen,” Lui said.

Group One winners Waikuku, Wellington and Sky Field headline the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup entries, with defending champion Waikuku chasing a fourth top-level success in the race.

Ka Ying Star, Healthy Happy, Lucky Express, Mighty Giant and Californiadeepshot round out the eight entries.

Ho not in the Zone

There was plenty of discussion about the length of Joao Moreira’s ban for his effort on Zone D last month and that was amplified on Sunday when the John Size-trained galloper posted an impressive win at Happy Valley.

Moreira was banned for six meetings for failing to ride Zone D out to the end of the race to the satisfaction of stewards when the galloper finished fourth as the $2.20 favourite.

Zone D was again the punters’ elect on the weekend and delivered in spades this time around, saluting by a length and a quarter under Karis Teetan at $2.35.

Another galloper punters will no doubt be following closely next time he runs is Atullibigeal after stewards put Vincent Ho Chak-yiu’s effort aboard the David Hall-trained debutant under the microscope after the galloper finished eighth.

Ho was severely reprimanded after stewards took issue with his riding of the $31 chance after the 450m and the jockey was told “he should have shifted Atullibigeal out to follow [eventual winner] Toronado Phantom with a view to shifting to that horse’s outside at the entrance to the straight to obtain clear running”.

Rather than looping the field like Zac Purton did on favourite Toronado Phantom, Ho rode Atullibigeal for luck and was checked as he tried to find a gap in the field, with stewards telling him to be sure to “provide horses with the best opportunity to finish the race off as best as they are able”.

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