'It's Going To Be Difficult': Golden Sixty Draws Widest For Hong Kong Mile

Owner Stanley Chan selects gate 14 for three-time Horse of the Year Golden Sixty | HKJC photo

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The obstacles were already considerable for three-time reigning Hong Kong Horse of the Year Golden Sixty (Aus) (Medaglia d'Oro) long before connections of the 44 runners for Sunday's Longines Hong Kong International Races meeting took their seats for Thursday's morning barrier draw in the Sha Tin parade ring.

Already a nine-time Group 1 winner and victorious in 25 of his 29 career starts, the 8-year-old has not started since defeating Beauty Joy (Aus) (Sebring {Aus}) in the G1 Champions Mile in late April, a 224-day hiatus. Only twice in his career has he been dealt a double-digit gate, and his chances to register a third victory in the G1 Longines Hong Kong Mile took a serious blow when owner Stanley Chan selected gate 14 in a field of 14.

“Of course, it's not an ideal draw and it makes things difficult for Vincent,” said trainer Frances Lui. “Midfield with cover, of course (would be best). If you look at the field, I think California Spangle (Ire) (Starspangledbanner {Aus}) will lead and he will slow down the pace. Probably this race will be run at a slow pace. It's going to be difficult.”

California Spangle, who prevented a Golden Sixty three-peat 12 months ago, fared far better, as he will break from stall three with Christophe Soumillon taking the ride. Whether he is loose up front is another question, as the Andre Fabre-trained Tribalist (GB) (Farhh {GB}) will have to roll forward from the 13.

No horse as old as eight has won the mile, though Good Ba Ba (Lear Fan), whose record Golden Sixty is trying to equal, won the last of his three Miles aged seven. Beauty Flash (GB) (Footstepsinthesand {GB}) won the 2010 Mile from the 14, though he was an on-pace runner, while standout milers like Ambitious Dragon (NZ) (Pins {Aus}) and Maurice (Jpn) (Screen Hero {Jpn}) won from double-digit draws.

Romantic Warrior (Ire) (Acclamation {GB}) will be favoured to successfully defend his title in the richest of the afternoon's four events, the HK$36-million G1 Longines Hong Kong Cup over his pet distance of 2000 metres, and while he drew a decent middle gate in seven, he, too, has a few questions to answer. The 5-year-old makes his first local appearance this season, having finished fourth in the G1 Turnbull S. at Flemington Oct. 7 ahead of a hard-fought success in the G1 Cox Plate at Moonee Valley three weeks later. Since clearing quarantine, he's had a winning barrier trial, and connections remain bullish on his chances.

“He's been good. In the morning, that kind of horse is always good,” trainer Danny Shum said of Romantic Warrior, who cost Mick Kinane and the Hong Kong Jockey Club team 300,000gns at Tattersalls October in 2019 before selling to owner Peter Lau for HK$4,800,000 (€517,894) at the Hong Kong International Sale in 2021. “But I think he's still improving. He's been great since Australia, no problem at all.”

Aidan O'Brien is the only trainer with runners in each of Sunday's four races, selecting gate one for G1 Yorkshire Oaks and GI Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf runner-up Warm Heart (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) and Aesop's Fables (Ire) (No Nay Never) for the Vase and Sprint, respectively. Cairo (Ire) (Quality Road), who will be a longshot in the Mile, drew barrier nine, while Luxembourg (Ire) (Camelot {GB}) has a potentially tricky alley in 10 with a short run to the first corner in the Cup.

The Ballydoyle maestro has started 29 horses at the HKIR for a record of 3-2-1, each of the victories coming in the Vase (Highland Reel, 2015 & 2016, Mogul, 2020). But he feels he's got the right horses to make an impact this year.

“I think there is no doubt that it is,” O'Brien replied when asked if this was the best team he'd brought to Hong Kong. “It's very difficult to win races here and you don't come with second-raters.”

Champion sprinter Lucky Sweynesse (NZ) (Sweynesse {Aus}) will jump favoured in the Sprint from gate five, while G1 Prix de l'Abbaye heroine Highfield Princess (Fr) (Night of Thunder {Ire}) will try to become the first European-based winner of the race from gate nine, with Japanese multiple group-winning speedball Jasper Krone (Frosted) leaving just to her inside.

Shahryar (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}), a latest third in the GI Breeders' Cup Turf, was not among the declared runners for the Vase. According to a HKJC release, he has been identified to have 'a potential health issue' and will return to Japan for further assessment.

 

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