Classic Cup still in the balance for Golden Sixty, no Dubai for Exultant

Golden Sixty
Golden Sixty has won eight of nine career starts.

Golden Sixty’s participation in Sunday’s (23 February) Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) at Sha Tin remains in the balance but the classy Hong Kong Classic Mile victor improved his chances of making the line-up after he strode through a key gallop at Sha Tin this morning (Tuesday, 18 February).

The bay suffered a fever two weeks ago but connections were cautiously satisfied with his latest exercise, in which he worked 1200m in 1m 26.7s under big-race pilot Vincent Ho. The rider was measured when delivering his post-gallop assessment.

“He felt okay,” Ho said. “It’s still uncertain but he felt okay. He’s a pretty straightforward horse and it felt alright to me but we still need to discuss it – there’s a question mark but we’ll talk about it.”

Golden Sixty was a brilliant winner of last month’s Hong Kong Classic Mile, the first of three legs in Hong Kong’s Four-Year-Old Classic Series. The Classic Cup is leg two and is the prime lead-up to the climax, the highly-coveted HK$20 million BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) on 22 March.

Trainer Francis Lui confirmed that this morning’s gallop went well but also stressed that he and his team will continue to assess the horse day by day. The results of a blood test tomorrow will be a key piece of information in determining whether or not connections press on towards Sunday’s assignment.

“He galloped on the grass this morning and he seems okay,” Lui said. “We scoped him and he’s clean and we will check his blood again tomorrow – so far, so good at the moment.

“A few blood counts have been back to normal – I asked the vet and he read the blood report and said that he had recovered very quickly – but of course the condition is not top form, so we’ll see. Fingers crossed!”

The Classic Cup has attracted 10 entries and among those is Private Secretary, an exciting British import who impressed with a debut win in a Happy Valley Class 2 on Boxing Day.

But the Kingman colt is on a retrieval mission, having flopped second-up when only 10th in a 1600m Class 2 at Sha Tin in early January.

“He’s running with a hood this time – that will calm him down a bit – and Chad Schofield rides him,” trainer Tony Cruz said this morning.

“He was a bit sore in his suspensorys (ligaments) after his last run, but he’s over it, that’s nothing to worry about, he’s sound.”

Private Secretary won three of his six starts pre-import, including the Listed Cocked Hat Stakes at Goodwood, and Cruz is hoping that on Sunday the talented galloper will highlight his Derby potential against the best of his peers.

“He’s ready for this race,” he said. “In time, the 2000 metres will be his pet distance, so he’s my only hope for the Derby this year. I think he’ll run a big race this weekend.”

Cruz also confirmed that his stable star Exultant will not go to Dubai for the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic (2410m) at Meydan, despite a gallant second at the weekend behind stablemate Time Warp in the Group 1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m).

“He has pulled up very good but the owner had a bad experience in the past when he travelled a horse overseas, with Absolute Champion, so he’s definitely not going. I tried to convince him but he doesn’t want to go, Exultant is his horse, so we respect his decision,” Cruz said.

The three-time Group 1 winner boasts some of the best 10 and 12-furlong form in the world, having mixed it with, and beaten, horses such as Japan’s star mare Lys Gracieux and France’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe hero Waldgeist.

“Exultant will go straight to the QEII Cup here at Sha Tin instead but that’s two months away. It’s the same as last year with the long wait,” Cruz added.