June 13, 2024

Breeders’ Cup shocker Order of Australia faces Golden Sixty in deep Hong Kong Mile

Golden Sixty
Golden Sixty extends his winning streak to 10 in the Jockey Club Mile (Hong Kong Jockey Club)

Sunday’s $3.2 million Hong Kong Mile (G1) has a superabundance of storylines: Hong Kong’s new celebrity Golden Sixty going for his 11th in a row, venerable champion Beauty Generation looking to roll back the years for a third Mile trophy, Japan’s Admire Mars bidding for a repeat, and Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) shocker Order of Australia hoping to back it up at Sha Tin, to name just a few.

Hong Kong Mile: Race 7 at Sha Tin, post time 2:50 a.m. (ET)

Check out Keeler Johnson’s Hong Kong Mile betting strategy on TwinSpires.com!

Golden Sixty has already joined exclusive company by winning 10 in row, a feat equaled by Beauty Generation in his prime. But if the Australian import can extend his skein in this first Group 1 test, he’ll begin chasing Silent Witness’ mark of 17 straight.

Only the second to sweep Hong Kong’s 4-Year-Old Classic Series after Rapper Dragon (2017), Golden Sixty has continued his path of conquest through the autumn stepping stones to the Mile. His ability to travel easily, then quicken to deliver the coup de grace, has made him nearly unbeatable so far with a 13-for-14 lifetime record.

“He’s a super horse,” regular rider Vincent Ho told the Hong Kong Jockey Club. “He’s got a great mentality, just wants to chase whatever is in front of him in the straight.

“He just jumps out the gate and settles really well, wherever I want him to be, he’s OK.

“Some horses can run 20 seconds or 21 seconds for 400 meters, but he can produce that sprint in 1200-meter or 2000-meter races.

“Every jockey dreams of a horse like this. When you’re on him, it’s just so special. He not just makes you a better jockey, but he can win big races for you.”

Bred on a cross similar to Rachel Alexandra and Songbird, being by Medaglia d’Oro out of a Forty Niner-line mare (Group 2 winner Gaudeamus by Distorted Humor), Golden Sixty overcame adversity to sweep the 4-Year-Old Series early in the year. After his scintillating victory in the Hong Kong Classic Mile, his first start beyond a sprint, he spiked a fever that put him under a fitness cloud for the Hong Kong Classic Cup over an extra furlong. But he didn’t need to be fully cranked to get up in time in 1:45.88. Golden Sixty passed a further stamina test in the Mar. 22 Hong Kong Derby, catching Playa del Puente who had spurted away in a bold gambit that made for a thriller.

Golden Sixty’s resumption in the Sept. 27 Celebration Cup H. (G3) could be seen as a passing of the torch from Beauty Generation, as the heir apparent comfortably dispatched the grand old campaigner. It must be said that Beauty Generation was giving Golden Sixty 17 pounds that day, and spotted 10 pounds when regressing to sixth behind Golden Sixty in the Oct. 18 Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy H. (G3). Beauty Generation skipped the Nov. 22 Jockey Club Mile (G2), and Golden Sixty swept past Ka Ying Star as they reprised the exacta from the prior prep.

Beauty Generation and jockey Zac Purton win the Hong Kong Mile (G1) at Sha Tin on December 9, 2018 (c) Hong Kong Jockey Club

Beauty Generation, twice Horse of the Year in his Mile-winning campaigns, was third to Admire Mars and Waikuku when attempting a Mile three-peat last December. But he did win the Feb. 16 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (G1) for the third year running, and came agonizingly close to another three-peat in the Apr. 26 Champions Mile (G1), just losing on the head-bob to Southern Legend.

Thus if not the win machine of former years, Beauty Generation was still in fine form when he had to transfer from trainer John Moore, who as a 70-year-old had reached the Club’s mandatory retirement age. Although yielding his Horse of the Year crown (to Exultant), he again reigned as Hong Kong’s champion miler when taking up residence with David Hayes.

After his runner-up and sixth to Golden Sixty to start the new Hong Kong season, Hayes opted to freshen the 8-year-old gelding up rather than run in the final prep. There is precedent for Hayes getting an old-timer to reach one last peak: in Australia, he helped Fields of Omagh recover his spark to win a second Cox Plate (G1) in 2006, three years after his first score in the coveted feature. That time frame is similar to Beauty Generation whose Mile victories came in 2017-18.

“It would be wonderful to win with him, especially if you could resurrect an old champion like Beauty Generation,” Hayes said of the all-time richest runner in Hong Kong racing.

“He reminds me – and he’s more high-profile – of an old Fields of Omagh going into his last Cox Plate, doing everything right but overlooked and under-rated by the market.

“This horse is going to start well overs which is quite ironic because up until the last 12 months, he’s been favorite in everything he’s raced in.

“The guy who rides him, Romain (Clavreul), who has ridden him all his life, says he feels as good as ever, which is really encouraging.

“We’ve taken a fresh approach. We elected not to give him a lead-up race or a trial. He’s just had three nice gallops on the course proper over the last month and I’m really happy with his level of fitness and he looks fantastic.”

Beauty Generation, who boasts the field’s top international rating (123), is also putting blinkers back on. If he can return to his former glory with partner Zac Purton, he would join fellow Hong Kong legend Good Ba Ba as the only three-time HKIR winner, although that Mile supremo did win three in a row (2007-09).

Christophe Soumillon kept faith in Hong Kong Mile upsetter Admire Mars (Hong Kong Jockey Club)

Admire Mars is trying to become the fourth multiple winner of this race, but just the second to be based outside Hong Kong. The only other, Australian-trained Monopolize (1995-96), won in the early years when the race was named the Hong Kong International Bowl and held at 7 furlongs.

A 27-1 overlay here last year, Admire Mars was coming off a rare clunker at the time, but the former Japanese champion 2-year-old colt had won two majors at this distance at home. His 2020 campaign got off to a frustrating start, a fruitless round trip to Dubai for the canceled World Cup card. Thus his belated reappearance came in the June 7 Yasuda Kinen (G1), where he was not disgraced in sixth off the layoff. Admire Mars is rounding back into form with a pair of third-place efforts in the Swan (G2) and Mile Championship (G1) setting him up for his title defense at Sha Tin.

“He has had two solid runs so far, so we have him set up to peak in Hong Kong,” trainer Yasuo Tomomichi said. “I think he is physically better this year than he was last year when he won.”

Admire Mars is drawn wider out in post 10, but being outside has been no hindrance in the Mile in the past decade. Nine of the last 11 winners broke from post 9 or higher. Ryan Moore gets the plum ride after Christophe Soumillon was not permitted to ride due to COVID protocols.

Longshot Order of Australia tops an Aidan O’Brien trifecta in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (Coady Photography)

Before Admire Mars, no 3-year-old had won since Additional Risk in the 1991 inaugural. Now it falls to Order of Australia to defy not only that trend, but another still very much alive, namely against European runners. The Far East has dominated the Mile for the past two decades, with Japan occasionally interrupting Hong Kong supremacy. Since 2000, only Godolphin’s Firebreak (2004) shipped from the opposite direction to take the prize.

With that background, plus the fact that Order of Australia was a 73-1 also-eligible in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, it’s tempting to ignore him as a fluke. But trainer Aidan O’Brien explains why the well-bred colt deserves extra credit for his Keeneland heroics over stablemates Circus Maximus and Lope Y Fernandez:

“He had a terrible draw (post 14), especially the way the races were run out there – he was as wide as you could possibly be on a tight track over a mile. It was a massive effort for him to do what he did. To get a position from where he was drawn, Pierre-Charles (Boudot) did brilliantly. We were over the moon with the run.

“Often, horses win and everything was in their favor but it wasn’t in his favor, given where he was drawn and things, and he still won.”

Order of Australia keeps mastermind Boudot aboard, but now he lands at the opposite extreme in post 1 – which hasn’t produced a winner since Monopolize repeated in 1996. Second-highest in the international ratings at 120, he is officially one up on Golden Sixty (119).

Fellow Irish shipper Romanised has the same stat to buck, but the Ken Condon trainee boasts wins in two of Europe’s elite mile events. The winner of the 2018 Irish 2000 Guineas (G1) and 2019 Prix Jacques le Marois (G1), he just missed to Circus Maximus in last year’s Prix du Moulin (G1) where the stewards’ decision could have gone the other way. This season hasn’t been as productive, but a solid pace on good ground brings out the best in him. It would be a heartwarming story if Romanised can win at Hong Kong owner Robert Ng’s home course.

Waikuku offers yet another storyline, with trainer John Size opting to start him right off the bench in a move that worked with his 2013 Mile hero Glorious Days. There’s no doubt about his class as the close runner-up to Admire Mars last year, and as the narrow winner over Beauty Generation in the Jan. Stewards’ Cup (G1). Waikuku was last seen placing third in the Apr. 26 Champions Mile.

Southern Legend, who denied Beauty Generation in that Champions Mile, ironically wouldn’t have been there but for COVID. Trainer Caspar Fownes was aiming for a three-peat in the Kranji Mile in Singapore before the pandemic ruled it out, and the Champions Mile was the fall-back option. Yet the 8-year-old Southern Legend has plied his trade honorably on this circuit, exemplified by his third in the 2018 Hong Kong Mile and recent third to Golden Sixty in the Jockey Club Mile.

So has Ka Ying Star emerged as a mainstay. The pace factor has been known to hold on for a share, and his gritty seconds to Golden Sixty in the last two preps signal he’s in good heart. Rounding out the cast are Jockey Club Mile fourth Mighty Giant, who had won five straight versus lesser, and trailing Simply Brilliant, who likely needed the race off an eight-month layoff. The Group 3 veteran is capable of making the frame on his day, as when third to Beauty Generation in the 2019 Champions Mile.

Quotations from Hong Kong Jockey Club notes by Leo Schlink, David Morgan, and Kate Hunter