“He’s amazing, isn’t he?”
Regular rider Vincent Ho aptly summed up Golden Sixty after the toast of Sha Tin slammed an international field in Sunday’s $3.2 million Hong Kong Mile (G1). Now 14-for-15 lifetime, the Francis Lui charge extended his winning streak to 11, and sparked hopes of how much more he can achieve. The Australian-bred son of Medaglia d’Oro is just a 5-year-old, and as a gelding, he has no other lucrative career clamoring for his attention.
Stanley Chan Ka Leung’s Golden Sixty is only the second horse to sweep the 4-Year-Old Classic Series, after ill-fated Rapper Dragon (2017). Imperious in the Hong Kong Classic Mile, gutsy to win despite a setback ahead of the Hong Kong Classic Cup, and electrifying to get up late in the Hong Kong Derby, Golden Sixty sailed through his three starts in open company this preparation.
Bettors accordingly hammered him into 3-10 favoritism, and Golden Sixty was good as gold. Under confident handling, he was switched off near the back, well behind pacesetter Ka Ying Star. Japan’s defending champion Admire Mars, the 4-1 second choice, hounded Ka Ying Star throughout. In the next flight came Aidan O’Brien’s Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) upsetter Order of Australia flanked by aging Hong Kong celebrity Beauty Generation, the 2017-18 Mile winner in his prime.
As Admire Mars attacked at the top of the lane, Beauty Generation went right with him, and last year’s runner-up, Waikuku, joined the fray. But the real action was unfolding wider out.
Revving through a sublime final quarter in :22.05, Golden Sixty simply had too much turbo for the lot of them, and he stormed past in a final time of 1:33.45. Southern Legend closed in a second-best :22.27 to snatch runner-up honors, a respectful two lengths astern. Admire Mars fought on gallantly in third, holding Waikuku by a neck.
Beauty Generation reported home an honorable fifth, and his retirement was immediately announced. The former two-time Horse of the Year, Hong Kong’s leading money-earner symbolically passed the baton to his successor.
“I knew it may be on the table,” said jockey Zac Purton, who rode Beauty Generation 28 times according to the Hong Kong Jockey Club.
“It’s a bittersweet day. It’s a sad end. He’s been the best horse for me in my career. I’m certainly going to miss him. He was brave again today and wherever he may go in the world, I’m sure I’ll go and visit him in his paddock one day.”
Order of Australia finished sixth. Mighty Giant, Ka Ying Star, Simply Brilliant, and slow-starting Romanised rounded out the order under the wire.
Ho’s recap was as straightforward as the race itself.
“They went a little bit hard early and I was quite far back, so I just let him slide through from the 600 (meters) and it only took him a few strides to almost get to them. I tried to save him until I let him down and when I asked for him, he did it really well, he gave me a really big effort.
“When I hit the top of the straight, I knew,” Ho added. “I was just cruising and I didn’t think anyone could beat him in that sort of sprint.
“He’s a horse that really wants to compete. He’s the best horse in Hong Kong at the moment. Today is all about him.”
“I can have a good sleep tonight!” Lui enthused after the weight of expectation was lifted. “I’m very happy – at the moment, I don’t know what to say, (my heart) is still pumping. As a jockey, as a trainer, as an owner, you’re dreaming of this.
“I was worried about the horses from Japan and Ireland but now, after this race, he has shown me that he’s a champion.”
The obvious question is whether Golden Sixty will take his show on the road. Lui was quick to rule out any international ventures for the time being.
“Not this season,” his trainer said. “Because of the virus, we’ll keep him in Hong Kong this season.”
Golden Sixty’s pedigree is redolent of Kentucky, but with European success in the family. Out of the Distorted Humor mare Gaudeamus, a Group 2 winner in Ireland as a juvenile, he descends from the same female line as Bosra Sham and Lammtarra. Another maternal relative was a star on this circuit – California Memory, still the only two-time Hong Kong Cup (G1) winner.