Golden Sixty, shrugging off a bout of fever, ran on late to win the Feb. 23 Hong Kong Classic Cup at Sha Tin Racecourse, cementing the favorite's role for next month's BMW Hong Kong Derby.
The Medaglia d'Oro gelding ran his record to nine wins from 10 starts, backing up his impressive score in the Jan. 27 Hong Kong Classic Mile. The Mile and the Cup are the first two legs of the 4-Year-Old Classic Series that concludes with the Derby.
Despite his stellar record, Golden Sixty was a question mark Sunday after spiking a fever between the races.
"Everybody knew he had a temperature two weeks ago," trainer Francis Lui said. "I was very worried he would miss this race. I tried everything to work it out, and finally we got it and he still performed today."
With Vincent Ho in the irons, Golden Sixty raced well back in the field into the turn. He had to wait for room, and his stretch run was more workmanlike than his brilliant turn of foot in the Classic Mile. But it was good enough to see off Champion's Way and jockey Ryan Moore by a half-length. Golden Sixty's stablemate, More Than This, was third for jockey Zac Purton.
Golden Sixty completed the 1,800 meters (1 1/8 miles) in 1:45.88 on good turf.
"He's not 100%, that's for sure. He's about 75 or 80%," Ho said. "He won this race because he has a really good fighting heart."
If Golden Sixty can improve on that conditioning and stretch out to the Derby distance of 2,000 meters (about 1 1/4 miles), he could become only the second horse, after Rapper Dragon, to win all three legs of the series.
"There's still a month to the Derby, so let's hope he's healthy. That's all I'm concerned about," Ho said. "We won't push him too hard for the Derby because our main priority is his health. He's only 4, and he's got a great future, even in a group 1 at a mile. That suits him well."
Lui said the Derby competition is not over by any means, even within his own barn.
"At the moment, of course, I think Golden Sixty (is the favorite). But More Than This is also a good horse, and I think he also ran well," the trainer said. "I spoke to Zac, and he said More Than This just might need blinkers to help him because he's quite relaxed … so we'll think about that."
Moore also gave a positive assessment of Champion's Way, who moved up a placing from his third in the Classic Mile.
"He's a very honest horse. He ran super," Moore said. "But the winner is obviously a very good horse."
The race was run before a nearly empty grandstand as the Hong Kong Jockey Club continues to restrict attendance in cooperation with government efforts to stem the spread of the coronavirus.