Triumph of a fighting heart
Francis Lui-trained Golden Sixty shrugs off heath concerns to land the $1.8m Hong Kong Classic Cup
In this sport, and like in all contests, heart sometimes trumps good looks, form lines and pedigree.
That's what happend at Sha Tin on Sunday when Golden Sixty shrugged off concerns following a health setback to win the HK$10 million (S$1.8 million) Hong Kong Classic Cup over the 1,800m journey.
And he did it despite his rider Vincent Ho's view that he was not at his peak for this second of three legs in the Four-Year-Old Classic Series, having suffered a fever two weeks ago.
"He was not 100 per cent. He was about 75 or 80 per cent. But he still won the race.
"Why? Because he has a really good fighting heart," said Ho of Hong Kong's great new equine hope.
Ho enjoyed a rocket ride to victory on Golden Sixty in last month's Hong Kong Classic Mile. But, this time, he had to rely on his mount's admirable guts and innate talent to keep alive the dream of a "Golden" clean-sweep in this season's Classic Series.
The Medaglia D'Oro gelding eased back and settled eighth in the 10-runner field as World Famous set the tempo up front.
Stablemate More Than This went past Golden Sixty's outside flank with around 500m to race under Zac Purton, but the real danger was ahead.
"Zac took off quite early at the 500m mark on More Than This and came up outside me. But Ryan Moore's horse (Champion's Way) had plenty more in the tank, so I just tracked him through the race," said Ho.
Moore, aware of the opportunity to steal a march, had fired Champion's Way to the lead before Ho could angle out and point Golden Sixty towards clear running.
When Ho found the gap, his mount's acceleration was less emphatic than the brilliant dash displayed in the Classic Mile.
But it proved decisive enough as he battled past his rival for a half-length victory in 1min 45.88sec.
"He's a tough and talented horse. He had his issue two weeks ago and I just wanted to get him as relaxed as possible," said Ho.
"I didn't want to push the button too early because I might use him too much, so I waited a little bit, found the gap and he sprinted home."
Trainer Francis Lui was as relieved as he was delighted as he stood by the sun-drenched winner's arch awaiting Golden Sixty's return.
"Everybody knew he had a temperature two weeks ago. I was very worried he would miss this race, I tried everything to work it out and finally we got it together," he said.
Golden Sixty now has the chance to emulate Rapper Dragon, the only horse to have won all three legs of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series.
To do that, the Australian-bred must win the BMW Hong Kong Derby over 2,000m at Sha Tin on March 22.
"There's still a month to the Derby, so let's hope he's healthy - that's all I'm concerned about," said Ho. - HKJC