While he will be without his legion of adoring fans in the stands at Sha Tin, Golden Sixty – “The Pride of Hong Kong” – is primed to bounce back from a rare defeat last month in Sunday’s (20 February) HKD$12 million Group 1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m).
And, as Hong Kong comes to a standstill to watch its champion for just over two nerve-racking minutes this weekend, jockey Vincent Ho – who will bear the weight of the city on his shoulders – remains unperturbed by a return to 2000m for Golden Sixty.
“To ride a horse like him, I’m always happy – there are no concerns about 2000 metres, we have done that before – he’ll be fine,” Ho declared.
Golden Sixty has twice raced over 2000m for two wins, triumphing in the 2020 BMW Hong Kong Derby as well as his nail-biting success over Furore in this race last year.
This weekend, Golden Sixty and Ho will look to join Indigenous (1998 & 1999), Viva Pataca (2008 & 2009), Military Attack (2013 & 2014) and Designs On Rome (2015 & 2016) as two-time Hong Kong Gold Cup winners in recent history.
And, after partnering Golden Sixty in a grass gallop at Sha Tin Tuesday morning (15 February), Ho was delighted with the six-year-old’s effort before sunrise, clocking 1m 20.70s (30.0, 28.2, 22.5) for 1200m alongside stablemate Valiant Dream.
“He felt good, he was really relaxed and he feels nice and strong,” Ho said of the HKD$98.093 million earner.
Golden Sixty had his unbeaten sequence halted at 16 last month in the Group 1 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) to a persistent Waikuku and a masterful Zac Purton.
The loss was the six-year-old’s first defeat since July, 2019 – during this period he claimed consecutive Group 1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m) crowns in 2020 and 2021.
Also, Tuesday morning at Sha Tin, Ho hopped aboard The Irishman for a 1200m trial on the dirt after the duo combined for a fast-finishing third in January’s Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m) – the first leg of the HKD$48 million Four-Year-Old Classic Series.
“He felt good, I wasn’t happy in the gates because we went in too early and he got worked up, we’re supposed to go in late but we’ll make sure of that in the race,” Ho said.
The Irishman stepped away cleanly under Ho, settling close to the rear which is where he remained throughout – untouched and without asking from Ho to improve his spot.
“He jumped, relaxed well and hit the line strongly. He should handle 2000 metres not a problem,” Ho said.
The Irishman will next be tasked with the HKD$12 million Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) on Sunday, 27 February before making a run for HKD$24 million BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) glory next month on 20 March.