'Truly Remarkable' Longines HKIR Gives Fans Everything They Could Ask For

Golden Sixty imperious in the Hong Kong Mile | HKJC

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Officials at the Hong Kong Jockey Club could offer their devoted fans only limited access to the Longines Hong Kong International Races meeting from 2020 to 2022, a necessity attributable to the Coronavirus outbreak in March 2020, and while the attendance restrictions were gradually eased over the next few years, there were certain parameters and restrictions in place to ensure the show would go on.

With things more or less back to normal in the SAR, the patrons–a reported 65,252 of them–poured through the Sha Tin turnstiles Sunday afternoon to greet their equine superstars and they left a largely satisfied group, as champions Romantic Warrior (Ire) (Acclamation {GB}), Lucky Sweynesse (NZ) (Sweynesse {Aus}) and Golden Sixty (Aus) (Medaglia d'Oro) delivered performances that captured their collective imagination–in one case, the difficult-to-imagine The Wertheimer Brothers' Junko (GB) (Intello {Ger}) was the lone overseas-based winner for the ageless Andre Fabre. It was the second straight year that the home team took three of the four events.

“In my humble opinion, I've been here now for 25 years and this was one of the best–if not the best–days of racing we have had in Hong Kong,” said Hong Kong Jockey Club CEO Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges. “If I look at the situation after Covid, after we had last year already a good meeting, but today Hong Kong racing has established (itself) again on the global stage and has shown what sporting entertainment means.”

Turnover on the HKIR was HK$1.697 billion (£173.1 million/US$217.4 million), marginally down on last year's HK$1.729 billion. Commingling handle of HK$429.6 million (£43.8 million/US$55 million) was a record for a 10-race Hong Kong meeting.

Andrew Harding, the Executive Director of Racing for the HKJC declared the meeting as 'truly remarkable' and added: “We were proud of what we were able to achieve during the dark days of the pandemic. Today showed that in December Hong Kong is the place to be and that the eyes of the racing world turn to us.

“I'm just so proud that we were able to show the world that Hong Kong is Asia's world city and we were able to give our visitors a fantastic week.”

G60 Lands Historic Third Mile Against All Odds

When last seen at Sha Tin under race conditions, treble Hong Kong Horse of the Year Golden Sixty (Aus) (Medaglia d'Oro) was posting his third straight victory in April's G1 Champions Mile, a ninth elite-level score for a horse who recorded his first in this race in front of an empty grandstand three years ago.

Having sided against a maiden overseas voyage for the G1 Yasuda Kinen, Golden Sixty was given the summer off, during which time he turned eight years of age on Southern Hemisphere time, and a conservative programme was set, as Father time became a consideration. The idea of a lead-up run in the G2 Jockey Club Mile Nov. 19 was ultimately dashed, meaning that Golden Sixty would need to defy a 224-day absence on his return to action Sunday. Add to that a draw in gate 14, and surely this was a task too tall. But, if ever a horse was built to overcome all that, it is surely Golden Sixty, and with an adoring public able to be present in large numbers for the first time, turned in a performance for the ages.

The many obstacles notwithstanding, Golden Sixty was very much the pari-mutuel darling, though he did drift out to $2.35 (1.35-1) on the tote. One of the first to leave the machine, the champ was taken hold of by Vincent Ho, and that alert dispatch dictated that Golden Sixty would race no worse than mid-division, as Godolphin's multiple group-winning Tribalist (GB) (Farhh {GB}) sped across from gate 13 to make the running in advance of 2022 Mile winner California Spangle (Ire) (Starspangledbanner {Aus}), Cairo (Ire) (Quality Road) and Japan's Danon the Kid (Jpn) (Just A Way {Jpn}) three wide.

Following the latter's move around the turn, Golden Sixty was given his cue and there was nothing about the subsequent push-button acceleration that suggested he was getting long in the tooth or otherwise sour on racing. Within a matter of strides, Golden Sixty sailed by all the inside traffic and it was all over bar the shouting, as Ho let out an atypically demonstrative roar as they crossed the line. Voyage Bubble (Aus) (Deep Field {Aus}), the 2023 Hong Kong Derby winner, ran on gamely for second ahead of G1 Mile Championship heroine Namur (Jpn) (Harbinger {GB}), who closed well from the backfield for William Buick. Golden Sixty joins Good Ba Ba (Lear Fan) as three-time winners of the Mile.

“It's amazing. I got the three-wide with cover, where I wanted to be and he knows his racing now,” said Ho, who warmed up for the HKIR with a victory in the International Jockeys' Challenge at Happy Valley Wednesday evening. “He's never travelled keen with me, he was relaxed all of the way and then when I asked him for an effort, he just gave me 100%.

“He's not eight–he feels like he's four. I can't believe it. I was confident, even from gate 14, as long as I could get into the right position. Everything just went pretty ideal–I visualised this and it happened. It's a great team effort, so thanks to all of the team. It's not easy to come here at a high level without any preparation.”

The Golden Sixty farewell tour looks set to continue in the G1 Stewards' Cup Jan. 21 and a swansong in the Champions Mile Apr. 28 before retiring in Japan

 

 

 

Pedigree Notes:

Golden Sixty's dam, winner of the 2006 G2 Debutante S. for Jim Bolger, is also responsible for the Southern Hemisphere-bred 3-year-old filly Golden Sister (Aus) (Capitalist {Aus}), an A$425,000 graduate of the 2021 Magic Millions Gold Coast Sale, who was unraced in Australia and has since been sent to the U.S., where she was covered by Medaglia d'Oro this breeding season. The mare's current 2-year-old is the Vancouver (Aus) (Medaglia d'Oro) filly Golden Millions (Aus), who has been retained by her breeder and is currently spelling for Ciaron Maher and David Eustace. Gaudeamus produced a filly by Wootton Bassett (GB) in 2022 and was most recently covered by two-time HKIR winner Maurice (Jpn).

Sunday, Sha Tin, Hong Kong
LONGINES HONG KONG MILE-G1, HK$36,000,000, Sha Tin, 12-10, 3yo/up, 1600mT, 1:34.10, gd.
1–GOLDEN SIXTY (AUS), 126, g, 8, by Medaglia d'Oro
1st Dam: Gaudeamus (GSW-Ire, $179,486), by Distorted Humor
2nd Dam: Leo's Lucky Lady, by Seattle Slew
3rd Dam: Konafa, by Damascus
(A$120,000 Ylg '17 MMGCYS; NZ$300,000 2yo '17 NZBRTR). O-Stanley Chan Ka Leung; B-Asco International Pty Ltd; T-Francis Lui; J-Vincent Ho; HK$17,920,000. Lifetime Record: 3x Horse of the Year, 2x Ch. Miler, Ch. Middle Distance Horse & Ch. 4yo-HK, 30-26-2-1, HK$165,840,600. *1/2 to Igitur (Aus) (Helmet {Aus}), SP-Aus; and Rainbow Connection (Aus) (Choisir {Aus}), GSP-Aus $139,595. Werk Nick Rating: A+++ *Triple Plus*. Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree. Click for the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree.
2–Voyage Bubble (Aus), 126, g, 5, Deep Field (Aus)–Raheights (Aus), by Rahy. (A$380,000 Ylg '20 INGFEB). O-Sunshine and Moonlight Syndicate; B-Torryburn Stud (NSW); T-Ricky Yiu; J-James McDonald; HK$6,720,000.
3–Namur (Jpn), 122, f, 4, Harbinger (GB)–Sambre et Meuse (Jpn), by Daiwa Major (Jpn). O-Carrot Farm Co Ltd; B-Northern Farm; T-Tomokazo Takano; J-William Buick; HK$3,680,000.
Margins: 1HF, 1 1/4, NK. Odds: 13-10, 30-1, 12-1.
Also Ran: Soul Rush (Jpn), Beauty Joy (Aus), Beauty Etenal (Aus), Serifos (Jpn), Encountered (Ire), Lim's Kosciuszko (Aus), Cairo (Ire), Divina (Jpn), Danon the Kid (Jpn), California Spangle (Ire), Tribalist (GB). Click for the HKJC chart, PPs and sectional timing.

 

 

 

Romantic Warrior Holds Off Luxembourg In the Cup

Perhaps they should change his name to Dramatic Warrior.

Six weeks after dropping his nose down on the line ahead of Mr Brightside (NZ) (Bullbars {Aus}) in a tense, ground-breaking victory in the G1 Cox Plate at Mooney Valley in Melbourne, Peter Lau's Romantic Warrior (Ire) (Acclamation {GB}) was the 13-10 favourite to go back-to-back in Sunday's G1 Longines Hong Kong Cup at Sha Tin and grimly held off late challenges from Ballydoyle's high-class Luxembourg (Ire) (Camelot {GB}) and Hishi Iguazu (Jpn) (Heart's Cry {Jpn}) to prevail by a head.

Perfectly placed in fourth by James McDonald, who flew back from Perth in Western Australia overnight, having just been beaten aboard the Annabel Neasham-trained Zaaki (GB) (Leroidesanimaux {Brz}) in Saturday's G1 Northerly S., Romantic Warrior traveled comfortably through the opening 1300 metres, but McDonald's hand was forced when Ryan Moore set Luxembourg alight on the turn. Quicker to the spot than the Ballydoyle raider, Romantic Warrior went for home, pinched a bit of a break and looked on his way to a successful defence of his title, only to have to call on every ounce of his class to hold on in the dying strides. Fourth-placed Straight Arron (Aus) (Fastnet Rock {Aus}) was hampered by the eventual winner at the 150m, with McDonald subsequently receiving an official reprimand from HKJC stewards, but no protest was lodged. Romantic Warrior becomes only the second repeat winner of the Cup, joining California Memory in 2011 and 2012.

“I think he's the toughest racehorse I've ever sat on and his courage, his will to win, is just something that I've never felt before,” said McDonald, who picked up the ride in last year's Cup from Karis Teetan, who was battling medical issues at the time. “I've ridden some fantastic racehorses–unbelievable ones–and he's right up there. To come back from a Cox Plate, I thought was going to be a ginormous task. Even though it was a small margin, I think he's come through it with flying colours.”

A 300,000gns purchase by Mick Kinane and the Hong Kong Jockey Club from the draft of Corduff Stud at the 2019 Tattersalls October Sale, Romantic Warrior was sold to Lau for HK$4.8 million at the Hong Kong International Sale in 2021. Luxembourg completed a Tattersalls-sourced 1-2.

Of Luxembourg, trainer Aidan O'Brien said: “He ran a great race. He was coming and coming and just on the wrong nod he [Romantic Warrior] came back up on him. But he ran a stormer, Ryan gave him a great ride. He's brave and he tries very hard. He's not been overraced and he is very consistent.”

 

 

 

Pedigree Notes:

Romantic Warrior is one of three winners from three to the races for his dam, a daughter of the English listed-winning and Group 3-placed, G2 Prix Jean Romanet and GI E. P. Taylor S. winner Folk Opera, who was purchased by Blandford Bloodstock carrying to Exceed and Excel (Aus) for €82,000 at the 2016 Goffs November Sale. The in-utero purchase, named Melodic Charm (Ire), was sold for 85,000gns at the 2018 Tattersalls October Sale and was a two-time winner at the races for Saeed Manana and James Tate before clearly benefitting from the success of Romantic Warrior when selling to the China Horse Club for 270,000gns in foal to Dark Angel (Ire) at last year's Tattersalls December Mares Sale.

Folk Melody is also the dam of the 3-year-old colt Operation Gimcrack (Ire) (Showcasing {GB}) and a yearling colt by the same stallion that was bought back for 110,000gns at this year's Tattersalls October Sale. Folk Star (GB) (Le Havre {Ire}), a David Simcock-trained half-sister to Folk Melody who won her maiden at Kempton Nov. 6 and was a narrowly beaten second in a Lingfield handicap Nov. 25, was knocked down to Kildaragh Stud for 37,000gns at the just-concluded Tattersalls December Sale. Folk Melody is additionally the dam of a weanling colt by New Bay (GB).

Sunday, Sha Tin, Hong Kong
LONGINES HONG KONG CUP-G1, HK$36,000,000, Sha Tin, 12-10, 3yo/up, 2000mT, 2:02, gd.
1–ROMANTIC WARRIOR (IRE), 126, g, 5, by Acclamation (GB)
1st Dam: Folk Melody (Ire), by Street Cry (Ire)
2nd Dam: Folk Opera (Ire), by Singspiel (Ire)
3rd Dam: Skiphall (GB), by Halling
(300,000gns Ylg '19 TATOCT; HK$4,800,000 HRA '21 HKJUN). O-Peter Lau Pak Fai; B-T J Rooney & Corduff Stud; T-Danny Shum-; J-James McDonald; HK$20,160,000. Lifetime Record: Ch. 4yo & Ch. Middle Distance Horse-HK, G1SW-Aus, 17-12-3-0, HK$119,796,084. Werk Nick Rating: B. Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree. Click for the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree.
2–Luxembourg (Ire), 126, c, 4, Camelot (GB)–Attire (Ire), by Danehill Dancer (Ire). (150,000gns Ylg '20 TATOCT). O-Westerberg, Mrs John Magnier, Michael Tabor & Derrick Smith; B-B V Sangster; T-Aidan O'Brien; J-Ryan Moore; HK$7,560,000.
3–Hishi Iguazu (Jpn), 126, h, 7, Heart's Cry (Jpn)–La Liz (Arg), by Bernstein. (¥97,000,000 Wlg '16 JRHAJUL). O-Masahide Abe; B-Northern Racing; T-Noriyuki Hori; J-Joao Moreira; HK$4,140,000.
Margins: SHD, NO, HF. Odds: 13-10, 71-10, 13-1.
Also Ran: Straight Arron (Aus), Prognosis (Jpn), Sword Point (Aus), Nimble Nimbus (NZ), Rousham Park (Jpn), Money Catcher (NZ), Horizon Dore (Fr), Champion Dragon (Ire). Click for the HKJC chart, PPs and sectional timing

 

 

Lucky Sweynesse Gains Redemption in the Sprint

Twelve months after enduring a luckless run in the sharpest of the four Longines Hong Kong International Races, Lucky Sweynesse (NZ) (Sweynesse {Aus}) overcame some nervous moments inside the final 300 metres, but was given a ride full of confidence by Zac Purton and went on to an ultimately soft success over Lucky With You (Aus) (Artie Schiller). Defending champion Wellington (Aus) (All Too Hard {Aus}) was third, as Hong Kong horses filled the top five slots.

The Sprint seemed loaded with speed on paper, and so it proved, as Victor the Great (Aus) (Toronado {Ire}) blasted away from gate four, but was soon displaced on the front end by the fleet-footed Jasper Krone (Frosted), while G1 Prix de l'Abbaye winner Highfield Princess (Fr) (Night of Thunder {Ire}) was handy in third. Purton secured the ideal spot in behind that trio and would have been licking his chops turning in, but as Victor the Winner took the race to Jasper Krone in upper stretch, a gap between that duo closed. Forced to steady, but only slightly as a result, Lucky Sweynesse was pulled out and took a few strides to hit top gear, but put the race to bed soon after. Lucky With You, a winner in Class 3 on International Day 2021, posted a career high to be second, while Wellington–blinkered for the first time–went a good race from the tail.

“I had the run inside Victor The Winner, but when James (McDonald) went for him, he shifted in and hampered me a little bit, but he (Lucky Sweynesse) accelerated so quickly, I was able to come out across his heels and he had his chance from there–he did what he had to do. I love him,” said Purton, recording a record-extending 11th HKIR win and third in the Sprint.

Lucky Sweynesse, who has now won each of the four Group 1 sprints in Hong Kong–all in calendar year 2023–was beaten under handicap conditions in his first two starts this term, but bounced back under a penalty to take out the G2 Jockey Club Sprint three weeks ago, defeating Wellington, who was having his first run for Jamie Richards.

“I could feel in the morning his trackwork had improved, and his action was getting a little bit better,” added Purton. “His all-around demeanour in the morning was getting back to where it was last season. I could see he was blossoming at the right time.”

The post-race incidents report stated that Lucky Sweynesse was found to have substantial blood in his trachea.

 

 

 

Pedigree Notes:

A full-brother to 2021 G1 Queensland Oaks third Signora Nera, Lucky Sweynesse has a 4-year-old half-brother by Per Incanto and a 2-year-old half-brother by Contributer (Ire). Having missed to Sweynesse for 2022, Madonna Mia most recently returned to that stallion son of Lonhro (Aus).

Sunday, Sha Tin, Hong Kong
LONGINES HONG KONG SPRINT-G1, HK$26,000,000, Sha Tin, 12-10, 3yo/up, 1200mT, 1:09.25, gd.
1–LUCKY SWEYNESSE (NZ), 126, g, 5, by Sweynessse (Aus)
1st Dam: Madonna Mia (NZ) (SW-NZ, $134,764), by Red Clubs (Ire)
2nd Dam: Hill of Hope (Aus), by Danehill
3rd Dam: Macozie (Aus), by Marscay (Aus)
(NZ$90,000 2yo '20 NZBRTR). O-Cheng Ming Leung, Cheng Yu Tung, Cheng Mei Mei & Cheng Yu Wai; B-P L Dombroski, Explosive Breeding Ltd & S A Sharrock; T-Manfred Man; J-Zac Purton; HK$14,560,000. Lifetime Record: Ch. Sprinter-HK, 21-15-4-1, HK$70,568,900. *Full to Signora Nera (NZ), G1SP-Aus, GSP-NZ, $145,027. Werk Nick Rating: A++. Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree. Click for the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree.
2–Lucky With You (Aus), 126, g, 6, Artie Schiller–Heredera (Aus), by Northern Meteor (Aus). (A$130,000 Ylg '19 INGMAR). O-Vincent Leung Man Him; B-Emirates Park Pty Ltd (NSW); T-Frankie Lor; J-Andrea Atzeni; HK$5,460,000.
3–Wellington (Aus), 126, g, 7, All Too Hard (Aus)–Mihiri (Aus), by More Than Ready. (A$70,000 Ylg '18 MMGCYS). O-Mr & Mrs Michael Cheng Wing On; B-Kia Ora Stud Pty Ltd, David Paradise, Steve McCann (NSW); T-Jamie Richards; J-Alexis Badel; HK$2,990,000.
Margins: 3/4, 1, NK. Odds: 3-10, 36-1, 75-10.
Also Ran: Victor the Winner (Aus), Duke Wai (NZ), Highfield Princess (Fr), Jasper Krone, Mad Cool (Ire), Sight Success (Aus), Aesop's Fables (Ire). Click for the HKJC chart, PPs and sectional timing.

 

 

Junko 'Fabre'-ulous in the Vase

The subject of a massive go on the tote that saw him crushed from double digits into $5.50 (9-2) in the final few minutes of the wagering, Wertheimer et Frere homebred Junko (GB) (Intello {Ger}) was steered out wide into the Sha Tin straight by Maxime Guyon and finished fastest of all to scoop Sunday's G1 Longines Hong Kong Vase. It was a third victory in the race for 77-year-old Andre Fabre, who won his first in 1999 with Borgia (Ger) and followed-up nine years ago with Flintshire (GB), also ridden by Guyon.

The lanky gelding missed the break by about a half-length and was content to drop out to the rear as La City Blanche (Arg) (Cityscape {GB}) led at a walking pace from Warm Heart (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}), who was taken to the outside after leaving from the inside stall.

Racecaller Mark McNamara quipped that the Shing Mun River adjacent to the backstretch run at Sha Tin was 'moving faster than the Vase field' and that was scarcely hyperbole, as the opening 1200 metres was timed in 1:18.44, nearly three seconds outside standard. Moore went for Warm Heart with the better part of 700 metres to go, getting first run on her rivals, and the duo edged past La City Blanche traveling apparently well nearing the entrance to the straight. But the G1 Yorkshire Oaks winner began to run out of steam at the 200m, and Junko, produced wide off the final corner, lengthened his stride beautifully and outfinished the well-backed Zeffiro (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) for the victory. Warm Heart held for third, while Lebensstil (Jpn) (Real Steel {Jpn})–whose drift in the market from odds-on to be off at $2.30 (13-10) was equally eye-catching, dropped away tamely to finish last of them. The 11th French victory in the Vase was achieved in the slowest clocking in history.

“I'm really happy because it's time to win this race (again). Nine years ago, it was Flintshire,” said Guyon. “We didn't know before the race if he would like this ground or not because normally he prefers the soft ground, but today in Hong Kong the ground was good. We had a good race, we have not a lot of runners so I'm not too far back and just after the last turn, he has a good turn of foot. He's very relaxed and of course the pace is not way fast but the most important thing with the horse is if he's breathing really good and everything is okay.”

A consistent performer at Group 2 and Group 3 level, Junko had been found wanting a bit when tried in consecutive Group 1 tests this season, finishing sixth in the Dubai Turf in March and again in the G1 Prix d'Ispahan in May before finishing a distant third to Westover (GB) (Frankel {GB}) in the G1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud. A facile winner of Deauville's G3 Prix de Reux Aug. 5, the homebred was third behind Iresine (Fr) (Manduro {Ger}) in the G2 Prix du Conseil de Paris Oct. 15 and was exiting a three-length triumph in the G1 Grosser Preis von Bayern in bottomless ground at Munich Nov. 5.

 

 

 

Pedigree Notes:

Lady Zuzu, a half-sister to multiple graded winner and multiple Grade I-placed Optimizer (English Channel), was purchased by Borges Torrealba for $1.225 million at the 2013 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Sale and was placed in a pair of age-restricted Grade III contests on the turf for Three Chimneys before changing hands for $2.35 million at the 2016 Fasig-Tipton November Sale.

The Grade I-winning third dam, a half-sister to fellow top-level scorers Dancing Spree and Furlough, produced two-time Grade I winner Finder's Fee. The latter's stakes-placed daughter Receipt (Dynaformer) was responsible for Grade III winner and three-times Grade I-placed Feathered (Indian Charlie), the dam of undefeated US Horse of the Year Flightline (Tapit).

Junko is a half-brother to a French-based, but American-bred yearling colt by Siyouni (Fr) and a weanling colt by Uncle Mo, also bred in Kentucky. Junko's 6-year-old half-sister Warzuzu (Ire) (War Front) is the dam of a filly by Persian King (Ire) that was purchased by Freddy Head for €160,000 at this year's Arqana August Sale.

Sunday, Sha Tin, Hong Kong
LONGINES HONG KONG VASE-G1, HK$26,000,000, Sha Tin, 12-10, 3yo/up, 2400mT, 2:30.12, gd.
1–JUNKO (GB), 126, g, 4, by Intello (Ger)
1st Dam: Lady Zuzu (MGSP-US, $112,615), by Dynaformer
2nd Dam: Indy Pick, by A.P. Indy
3rd Dam: Fantastic Find, by Mr. Prospector
O/B-Wertheimer et Frere; T-Andre Fabre; J-Maxime Guyon; HK$13,440,000. Lifetime Record: G1SW-Ger, MGSW & G1SP-Fr, 14-7-3-2, HK$17,793,130. Werk Nick Rating: C. Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree. Click for the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree.
2–Zeffiro (Jpn), 126, c, 4, Deep Impact (Jpn)–Wild Wind (Ger), by Danehill Dancer (Ire). O-Shadai Race Horse Co Ltd; B-Shadai Farm; T-Yasutoshi Ikee; J-Damian Lane; HK$5,040,000.
3–Warm Heart (Ire), 117, f, 3, Galileo (Ire)–Sea Siren (Aus), by Fastnet Rock (Aus). O-Mrs John Magnier, Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith & Westerberg; B-Coolmore; T-Aidan O'Brien; J-Ryan Moore; HK$2,760,000.
Margins: 1, 2 1/4, HF. Odds: 9-2, 23-5, 12-5.
Also Ran: Geraldina (Jpn), Senor Toba (Aus), Five G Patch (Ire), La City Blanche (Arg), Lebensstil (Jpn). Scratched: West Wind Blows (Ire). Click for the HKJC chart, PPs and sectional timing.

 

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