Francis Lui edged to the positive side of caution regarding Golden Sixty’s chances of making the Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m), after leading his Classic Mile winner home from exercise at Sha Tin yesterday morning (Tuesday, 11 February).
Word rattled around the racecourse during Saturday’s meeting that the handler’s rising star was laid low with a high temperature, and that the second leg of Hong Kong’s Four-Year-Old Classic Series, on 23 February, was likely off the agenda.
“He’s still a chance,” Lui said. “His temperature is back to normal but we still have to monitor him for these few days. If he’s okay we will work him next week.
“We’ll see how he is and check his blood and if everything is normal we might carry on. Everything depends on how he works in his track work – he looks okay because he trotted in the trotting ring and he was fresh, but we’ll see.
“We will gallop him next week and that will decide whether or not he runs.”
Not long afterwards, Lui watched from the trainers’ stand as his other star four-year-old, More Than This, put in a smart barrier trial under his new big-race pilot Zac Purton. The exciting bay was a ground-devouring second to Golden Sixty in last month’s Hong Kong Classic Mile.
Purton was pleased with the workout in which the British import passed the post third behind Baltic Success in a time of 1m 11.87s.
“I’ve trialled him twice now recently and he’s begun well both times. That trial was run at a strong tempo and it was over 1200 metres, which is short enough for him,” the champion jockey said.
“I was happy with the way he moved during the trial; I was happy with the way he lengthened stride and improved into it around the corner into the straight; I was happy with the trial overall.
“He’s looking at going beyond a mile now so you wouldn’t expect him to be travelling that strongly in a trial run like that at that distance but he began really well,” Purton added.
More Than This, for all that he has performed impressively this season, has looked lazy at the start of his races. And, in his recent runs, the Dutch Art gelding has straightened his tail when his rider has got busy, before closing off soundly nonetheless. This morning, the bay stopped at the top of the ramp, waited and looked around before moving on to the track.
“He’s a very quirky horse,” Purton said. “It took us a long time to get him to start showing us anything. I rode him for months and months in work when he first came here and he had no interest early. Some mornings he tried to half-bite his work partner and it was common for him to want to have a kick at them as well.
“He’s just got a playful character – you wouldn’t notice it to see him in a race, you’d think he’s quite laid back but he’s a thinker. He just likes to do his own thing.”