By Nicholas Godfrey
So you know hometown hero Golden Sixty clung on in Hong Kong on FWD Champions Day at Sha Tin on Sunday, where top racemare Loves Only You led home a clean sweep for Japanese visitors in the highlight, the QEII Cup. Here’s some other stuff you might be interested in – plus videos and tweets.
What’s going on?
‘He’s a superstar’ – Vincent Ho on Golden Sixty
Vincent Ho, later to complete a showpiece Champions Day double on Loves Only You, was singing the praises of Golden Sixty after he took his winning streak to 14 in the G1 Champions Mile.
“He’s a superstar,” suggested the rider – with some justification, perhaps, as Golden Sixty probably needed to be pretty good to win after being sent four wide around the turn and asked to quicken early in the straight.
Admittedly, the Hong Kong hero looked set for an emphatic success but in the end it was all a bit too close for comfort as Francis Lui-trained stablemate More Than This bore down on him. Having been asked for too much, too soon, Golden Sixty clung on by a head under an unappealing whip-heavy effort from his jockey.
‘I can’t describe it’
On the plus side, Vincent Ho is the first-ever homegrown rider ever to ride a G1 double at Sha Tin. “I can’t describe it,” said the 30-year-old, who had three wins altogether on the card.
“It’s amazing today with Golden Sixty and Loves Only You,” he added. “It’s definitely one of the highlights – I’ll enjoy it for sure.”
17 out of 18
With a winning sequence now dating back to July 2019, Golden Sixty has lost only once in 18 career starts. The five-year-old son of Medaglia D’Oro has landed four international G1s on the bounce, this win being preceded by the HK Mile, Stewards’ Cup and Citi HK Gold Cup.
With 14 consecutive victories, he is now three away of Silent Witness’s historic 17-win unbeaten streak, a Hong Kong record.
“If I can break the record it would be great but I’m not pushing myself to do so,” said trainer Francis Lui. “It depends on the horse – he is a good horse but I don’t want to kill him.”
No decision on next target
Golden Sixty’s next target is yet to be decided, with the third and final leg of Hong Kong’s Triple Crown, the G1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup, a tempting option.
However, that G1 contest would mean stepping up in trip fully half a mile to 2,400 metres. “I will see how the horse recovers and then decide because the Triple Crown is still under consideration,” said trainer Francis Lui.
“I don’t think the distance is a worry, he’s that kind of horse who will fight no matter what, it just depends on how he recovers.”
The gelding would become only the second horse in history to claim Hong Kong’s Triple Crown after River Verdon in 1994.
More Than This: life begins at Fahey’s
More Than This, the gelding who gave Golden Sixty such a scare, is a five-year-old son of Dutch Art who was unbeaten in three runs as a two-year-old for Richard Fahey in Britain before joining Francis Lui.
A winner of four of his 17 races in the region, he was placed behind Golden Sixty in all three legs of the HK Four-Year-Old Classic series in 2021. He hasn’t won since his last race as a three-year-old in December 2019.
QEII Cup: Japan runs riot with Loves Only You
With five previous winners, the QEII Cup has long been one of Japan’s favourite overseas races. Not only did Loves Only You become the nation’s sixth winner of the HK$25m feature with a convincing three-quarter-length victory, the Yoshito Yahagi-trained mare came home at the head of a display of absolute Japanese dominance.
Japan supplied the first four home, with Glory Vase, Daring Tact and Kiseki filling the next three positions behind the winner, who got the best of a sustained sprint after a tepid early gallop until halfway set by local veteran Time Warp.
Japan’s previous QEII Cup victories came via Eishin Preston (2002-03), Rulership (2012), Neorealism (2017) and Win Bright (2019).
Big compliment paid to Mishriff
A Classic-winning daughter of the legendary Deep Impact, Loves Only You had clocked the fastest time in the history of the race when landing the Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks) in 2019.
Yet despite a sizeable reputation, she did not win another graded stakes until the G2 Kyoto Kinen in February, after which she produced the best performance of her life when narrowly beaten into third behind Mishriff and Chrono Genesis in a three-way battle for the Dubai Sheema Classic.
The five-year-old is a full-sister to 2016 Dubai Turf winner Real Steel.
No excuses for Daring Tact
Daring Tact, who was still unbeaten as she completed the Japanese fillies’ Triple Crown in 2020, suffered a third successive defeat. Sent off 6-4 favourite, she seemed to get a dream run through before offering only a limited response when asked for her serious effort in the closing stages.
“I know she was very heavily supported so the first thing I have to say is that I’m sorry,” said jockey Kohei Matsuyama, who offered no excuses.
Chairman’s Sprint: meet HK’s new star Wellington
Hong Kong looks to have a new sprint star in the shape of Wellington, who produced a powerful finish to overhaul front-running Computer Patch by a length and a half to take his career record to seven wins from ten starts.
The Hong Kong Sprint will provide the primary target for the impressive Australian-bred four-year-old covered the last 400 metres in a sizzling 21.66s. “He’ll have a good rest and we’ll see you here in December,” said trainer Richard Gibson, who won the race with Gold-Fun in 2015.
Richard Gibson: take the rough with the smooth
Wellington’s British expat trainer Richard Gibson is in his tenth season in HK. Best known for the globe-trotting exploits of Doctor Dino, Northumberland-born Gibson, 51, has enjoyed notable success in the past with the likes of Akeed Mofeed and Gold-Fun, who also finished second in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot.
“As a trainer, you’ve got to take the rough with the smooth,” said Gibson, referring to Wellington’s lacklustre effort on his previous outing. “We’re very confident in what we do with our horses in Hong Kong and a win like today, hopefully we can build up our stable strength.”
Winning jockey was former French champion apprentice Alexis Badel, enjoying his biggest HK success in his fourth season.
‘Nothing there’ – Joao Moreira on Danon Smash
Top Japanese sprinter Danon Smash produced a laboured effort, the hot favourite never looking comfortable and hard ridden from a long way out.
The 2020 HK Sprint winner was a moderate sixth. “He was under pressure at the 600m – there was nothing there,” said Joao Moreira.
Shall we talk about it?
Richard Gibson (Wellington’s trainer): “It’s a great win for Hong Kong. It’s fantastic to see the fans back today and I’m just delighted for the owners. They were one of the first owners in my stable when I came here. They’ve been very loyal and supportive and it’s a great satisfaction to source and deliver such a great horse. He came from Australia and he was sourced from the trials.
“I always thought we would probably get to the winning enclosure but the road is a little bit rocky, life’s never easy but it’s great to get there in the end.”
Alexis Badel (Wellington’s jockey): “He had a perfect trip. The horse was much more relaxed than last time. The draw last time was a bit difficult and the ground was faster as well, so it was difficult for me to relax the horse without giving ground.
“Today I had the perfect race, just close to the pace and more relaxed and when I put a little bit of pressure on my horse, he responded very well. To me, he’s a top-class horse and he just proved it today. When I put some pressure on him, I knew he was going to win.”
Vincent Ho (Golden Sixty’s jockey): “I did expect the stablemate to be in good form but they went too slow for us really, usually it takes him a while to pick up but they were a bit slow and when I pulled out at the 600-metre mark he was already alongside them, then when I hit the straight he just went for it.
“We learned something new about him because he had never been chased before and when Joao came on the outside he fought back. The pace was quite slow but he came very quick and when he saw that, he took off again so I’m very happy. He’s a superstar.
“It’s been a good season, seven races for Golden Sixty, and I’m happy for him to win this. Hopefully he will have a break now until next season, he had a couple of tough runs these past two.”
Francis Lui (Golden Sixty’s trainer): “He’s a very good horse – I was a little bit worried but Golden Sixty is that kind of horse, when he passes the other horses he thinks his job is done but then when he saw another runner coming he turned it on again.”
Vincent Ho (Loves Only You’s jockey): “The horse is in form, for sure. She was very kind until the 800, then sort of hit a flat spot and I gave her two shakes just to teach her a little bit and then I asked her again and she responded very well through the line.
“I didn’t dare to look back until the finish line but she was amazing. Mr Yahagi gave me free rein to just let me do whatever because he knew the horse was well and once she’s travelling well with her own pace, she will perform.
Karis Teetan (Glory Vase’s jockey): “He ran great – I was following Vincent and he pinched the race on the home turn.”
Kohei Matsuyama (Daring Tact’s jockey): “She gave us a good run as usual. I know she was very heavily supported so the first thing I have to say is that I’m sorry. I cannot find an excuse – the first two ran great races.”
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