August 8, 2022

Streaking champ Golden Sixty goes for record in Hong Kong Mile

Golden Sixty
Golden Sixty extends his winning streak to 11 in the 2020 Hong Kong Mile (Hong Kong Jockey Club)

If defending champion Golden Sixty can rack up his 19th career victory in Sunday’s $3.3 million Hong Kong Mile (G1), the phenom would set a new record for most Hong Kong wins. Even more compelling, it would mark his 16th in a row – just one win away from equaling the legendary Silent Witness’s 17-race winning streak.

Hong Kong Mile (G1) – Race 7 (2:50 a.m. ET)

Golden Sixty has been a proverbial win machine from about six furlongs to as far as about 1 1/4 miles, but he’s spent more of his time around Sha Tin’s metric mile. Hong Kong’s Horse of the Year made it a perfect 7-for-7 over course and distance in the Nov. 21 Jockey Club Mile (G2), despite an early crawl that was all against him, especially in his seasonal reappearance. Golden Sixty exploded through a penultimate quarter in :21.69, and a final split in :21.51, to prevail comfortably over Waikuku. Third and fourth were Sky Darci, the current Hong Kong Derby hero, and More Than This, who came within a head of Golden Sixty in the Apr. 25 Champions Mile (G1).

Golden Sixty’s trainer, Francis Lui, offered an upbeat bulletin to the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s publicity team:

“We are very happy with him. He came out of that first run very well. In that race over the first 800 (meters), the pace was very slow. That gave the other horses a little trouble, but Golden Sixty, he just has a very good turn of foot now – he knows where the finish is.

“He is all ready, and we’re hoping that luck will come to my team and my owner (Stanley Chan Ka Leung), and to me too. Barrier 2 is OK. We’ll just relax him and wait for the straight, and then we can just let him go.

“In all of a lifetime I think you can’t find this kind of horse. I’m lucky, and Hong Kong is lucky to have him too.”

Waikuku, runner-up in the 2019 Hong Kong Mile and fourth in last year’s edition, is himself twice a Group 1 hero at Sha Tin. The veteran leads a trio from the John Size yard. But stablemates Excellent Proposal and Lucky Express, the one-two finishers from the Jan. 24 Hong Kong Classic Mile to start the Four-Year-Old Series, face a stiffer task here.

Golden Sixty’s profile was no deterrent to the four-strong contingent from Japan, the only nation able to interrupt Hong Kong dominance of the Mile in recent years. Danon Kingly, twice classic-placed at three, scored a career high by upsetting Japanese champion Gran Alegria in the June 6 Yasuda Kinen (G1). The son of Deep Impact backed it up with a near-miss to stellar sophomore Schnell Meister in the Oct. 10 Mainichi Okan (G2).

Indy Champ, who turned the Yasuda Kinen/Mile Championship (G1) double in 2019, was seventh when trying that year’s Hong Kong Mile. Although he has lost the winning habit, Indy Champ remains a consistent player for the minors, as evidenced by his fourths in the 2021 Yasuda Kinen and Mile Championship.

Salios has lost his luster over the past year, but the Noriyuki Hori trainee could still be capable of a top-tier effort. The 2019 Asahi Hai Futurity (G1) hero played second fiddle to Contrail in the first two jewels of the 2020 Japanese Triple Crown, and slammed elders in last fall’s Mainichi Okan. Perhaps the change of scenery, and reuniting with Australian jockey Damian Lane, can roll back the clock for Salios.

The fourth member of the Japanese quartet, Vin de Garde, never factored in 12th in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1). Runner-up to Lord North in the Mar. 27 Dubai Turf (G1) on World Cup night, the Grade 2 scorer has been unplaced in his rare top-level forays at home.

Also exiting a Breeders’ Cup loss is the lone European representative, Aidan O’Brien’s Mother Earth, who was 10th at Del Mar. That was a thoroughly uncharacteristic result for the 1000 Guineas (G1) and Prix Rothschild (G1) winner, hitherto a reliable presence on the mile scene. The Hong Kong Mile has become a tough end-of-the-year spot for the Europeans, so Mother Earth would have to defy the trend to rebound.