Golden Sixty out of QEII Cup
Trainer Francis Lui finally decides to rest his stable champion and prepare him for next season
After keeping all and sundry in suspense, trainer Francis Lui has finally answered their question: Golden Sixty - his sensational BMW Hong Kong Derby hero - will not contest the HK$25 million (S$4.5 million) Group 1 FWD Queen Elizabeth II Cup (QEII Cup) over 2,000m at Sha Tin on Sunday week.
"He won't run," said Lui. "He's achieved a lot this season and we feel he needs a rest now to refresh his mind and let him develop. He'll have a summer break and then we'll prepare him for next season."
Golden Sixty dominated the Four-Year-Old Classic Series - winning all three legs - in the last few months.
He will now go for a well-deserved break with seven wins this term from as many starts. Last season, the Australian-bred was unplaced in his debut but won his subsequent three starts.
News of Golden Sixty's withdrawal boosted the prospects of last year's QEII Cup runner-up, Exultant, whose trainer Tony Cruz's smile broadened on Wednesday night, when he bagged a double at Happy Valley with California Rad and Sunshine Warrior.
Exultant, Hong Kong's Champion Stayer and Champion Middle-Distance Horse, was arguably unlucky when second to Japan's Win Bright in last year's edition.
The three-time Group 1 winner has been in fine form again this term. Last time out, he ran a close second behind stablemate Time Warp in the Group 1 Hong Kong Gold Cup over 2,000m.
At the city track on Wednesday, Hong Kong champion jockey Zac Purton's quest for this season's riding supremacy received a hat-trick boost.
His arch-rival Joao Moreira, who also had a full book of nine rides, surprisingly left home empty-handed.
Purton's treble took his season's tally to 100 wins, and one behind Moreira.
"The target at the start of the season is always 100 and I think, if you ride that amount of winners, you've had a very good season," said Purton.
"It's not easy to do - only three jockeys in history have done it in Hong Kong, so to get there again is satisfying.
"I haven't had one stable I ride for fly this season, they've all sort of gone okay but not great and it's made things a little bit hard."
Purton's fifth Hong Kong century came in a thrilling finale - the Class 2 Cedar Handicap over 1,800m - that pitted the two great rivals in an all-out tussle through the final 500m.
Purton, aboard Dances With Dragon, battled with Moreira, who was on the favourite Enrichment, before winning by a head.
Earlier, he took section two of the Class 3 Cypress Handicap over 1,200m on Island Shine. The win moved Ricky Yiu to 48 wins - one ahead of Lui at the top of the trainers' table.
Purton's first leg of his treble came in section one of the Class 4 Larch Handicap over 1,200m, on the Manfred Man-trained Compassion Spirit.
French jockey Antoine Hamelin, who bagged a double at his first Hong Kong race day last Sunday, followed up with his first Happy Valley victory aboard the Peter Ho-trained Lasting Friendship. - HKJC