Golden Sixty conqueror Waikuku braces for fresh challenge
Overshadowed for much of a decorated career by Golden Sixty and Beauty Generation’s towering feats, Waikuku bids for a second HK$12 million G1 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (20 February) with little to prove, according to Zac Purton.
Already armed with the rare distinction of defeating Golden Sixty and Beauty Generation at G1 level, John Size’s evergreen galloper will attempt to post a fourth victory at the highest level as he strives to justify Purton’s confidence.
“He’s always been right there. Unfortunately, he’s run into two champions here in Hong Kong in Beauty Generation and Golden Sixty and sometimes he’s had to play second fiddle – but he’s also been able to topple the champs at the same time.
“So, he’s a quality galloper – we’ve seen that – and hopefully we can get another one on the board.” said Purton, who is chasing a fifth Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup triumph.
Triumphant previously on Ambitious Dragon for Tony Millard in 2013, Purton combined with Beauty Generation for three consecutive editions of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup from 2018-2020 – before Waikuku inherited his former rival’s crown last season.
Purton believes the seven-year-old has maintained form since ending Golden Sixty’s winning streak last month in the G1 Stewards’ Cup (1600m).
“He’s held his form, he’s obviously not going to improve off that effort – that’s as good as he can go – and John’s job is just to tick him over and keep him in that form,” the Australian said, adding the veteran’s listless Sha Tin trial on 11 February should be taken in context of the notoriously laid-back galloper’s trackwork efforts.
“It’s hard to get a guide off his trials sometimes, but he’s pulled up good and we’re happy. He’s a quirky horse. Sometimes he turns up and trials okay. He never a horse that trials great on the dirt, sometimes he’ll turn up and trial okay. Other days, he doesn’t seem that interested and that was one of those days.
“But his action felt good and he pulled up okay. He’s always turned up on race day and that’s all that matters.”
Drawn in barrier three against fellow G1 winners Wellington (one) and Sky Field (seven), Waikuku will chase his fifth win over Sha Tin’s 1400m course from six attempts.
“It’s a nice gate and it’s an interesting race with the sprinters stepping up in distance and the smaller field, which sometimes tactically can become quite competitive, so we’ll just see how the track’s playing on the day and John will tell me how to ride him and hopefully we can get the job done again,” Purton said.
Tony Cruz, who last won the race with Beauty Flash in 2011 with Gerald Mosse, saddles Californiadeepshot and Ka Ying Star in this season’s edition.
“Californiadeepshot loves 1400m and is always running a great race at that distance. He’s rated 102 now, so I’m stranded with him at 102, so I had a word with the owners and decided to give him a chance at the race,” Cruz said of the lowest-rated runner in the field.
“We’ve got a good draw (barrier two), which is fantastic and we can lead the race and hopefully we can get in the first three.
“It might be a bit short for Ka Ying Star, but I think he’ll run a good race. He’s better over a mile, so it’s probably going to be too short.”
Golden Sixty will also compete in Sunday’s programme, crossing swords in the HK$12 million Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m) with fellow BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) winner Sky Darci, champion stayer Panfield and Russian Emperor.
Sunday’s (20 February) Group 1 double-header at Sha Tin kicks off at 1pm with the Class 2 Ambitious Dragon Handicap (2000m).