June 23, 2024

Two-time champ Golden Sixty can add to historic legacy in Hong Kong Mile

Superstar Golden Sixty just collared up-and-comer California Spangle in the Jockey Club Mile (Photo by Hong Kong Jockey Club)

Hong Kong racing legend Golden Sixty can gild an already-historic resume by turning a three-peat in Sunday’s Hong Kong Mile (G1) at Sha Tin. The two-time defending champion seeks to emulate Good Ba Ba, who swept three straight editions spanning 2007-09.

Among his challengers are bold front runner California Spangle, who was just run down by Golden Sixty in the local prep, and the Japanese trio of Schnell Meister, Danon Scorpion, and Salios, third in last year’s Mile.

Bet on TwinSpires.com: How to play the four Hong Kong International Races

Hong Kong Mile (G1) – Race 7 (3 a.m. ET)

Golden Sixty has rewritten the Hong Kong record book, establishing new marks both for earnings (more than HK$116 million) and number of wins (22) in the modern era. The Francis Lui trainee has been nearly unbeatable in 25 career starts, including an 11-for-12 scorecard going the metric mile. His lone loss at the distance came in the Jan. 23 Stewards’ Cup (G1), where he was left too much to do and couldn’t quite catch the perfect-trip Waikuku. Although Waikuku is a high-class operator himself, as a three-time Group 1 winner, he hasn’t gotten close to Golden Sixty since.

California Spangle could be the biggest danger. An up-and-comer with the ability to carry his speed over a route, the Tony Cruz pupil wired the Feb. 27 Hong Kong Classic Cup. He succumbed narrowly in the other two legs of the Four-Year-Old Series, the Hong Kong Classic Mile and Hong Kong Derby, to Romantic Warrior, who looms a top threat in Sunday’s Hong Kong Cup (G1). California Spangle subsequently cut back in trip for the Apr. 24 Champions Mile (G1) and played second fiddle to the imperious Golden Sixty.

Ahead of their rematch in the Nov. 20 Jockey Club Mile (G2), California Spangle gained a fitness edge by winning a pair of Group 3s to start the new Hong Kong season. But Golden Sixty, fresh off the bench, still managed to nab him in time. California Spangle hopes to hold on a bit longer this time with top rider Zac Purton back aboard, and connections are delighted with post 2. Golden Sixty will once again come charging in the lane with regular pilot Vincent Ho.

In the past 17 years, only Japan has interrupted local dominance. Their contingent will all try to move forward from unplaced efforts in the Mile Championship (G1) at Hanshin. Schnell Meister arguably has the most license to improve, having finished a traffic-ridden fifth. Last year’s NHK Mile (G1) hero has gone close in three other majors at this trip, including the 2021 Mile Championship and the past two runnings of the prestigious Yasuda Kinen (G1). Christophe Lemaire guides from post 1, which has yet to produce a Mile winner.

Danon Scorpion, the lone three-year-old in the field, arrives as the reigning NHK Mile winner. A close third to fellow sophomore Serifos in the Oct. 22 Fuji (G2), he regressed to 11th behind the same rival in the Mile Championship. Five-year-old veteran Salios, who likewise ran well in his prep when taking the Oct. 9 Mainichi Okan (G2), wound up a disappointing 14th in the main event. But both have eye-catching jockey bookings: Danon Scorpion picks up William Buick, and Ryan Moore sticks with Salios.

The only other international visitor, Laws of Indices, is an Irish expat based in Australia. The winner of a fairly forgettable Prix Jean Prat (G1) in 2021, he hasn’t added to his tally since joining Annabel Neasham. His best result in his new home, however, was a close second in the Oct. 8 Toorak H. (G1) in a rare foray at this trip. James McDonald rides him for the first time since that Caulfield feature.

The one Hong Kong-based contender who didn’t compete in the Jockey Club Mile, Beauty Joy, is shortening up from a seventh in the about 1 1/4-mile Jockey Club Cup (G2). The cutback makes sense for the Sebring gelding who’s been most effective around this vicinity, if untested at this level. A stablemate of California Spangle from the Cruz yard, Beauty Joy scored in the May 29 Lion Rock Trophy H. (G3) over this course and distance, and he rallied to get up in the June 19 Premier Cup H. (G3) at about seven furlongs. Hugh Bowman gets the call.

Aside from the top two in the Jockey Club Mile, Golden Sixty and California Spangle, others advancing from that stepping stone are the respective third through sixth – Waikuku, who ran evenly in an improved performance second-up; More Than This, the 2021 Hong Kong Mile runner-up who had prepped similarly a year ago; Excellent Proposal; and Turin Redsun.

Check out all the previews of the Hong Kong International Races here