Barrier challenge as Golden Sixty chases history

Scott Burton

07/12/2023 16:40

Golden Sixty has drawn barrier 14 in the LONGINES Hong Kong Mile.
Golden Sixty has drawn barrier 14 in the LONGINES Hong Kong Mile.

Golden Sixty must overcome the widest draw of all in stall 14 if he is to reclaim his G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m) crown on Sunday (10 December), in a turn of events which drew audible gasps from the assembled audience at Thursday morning’s (7 December) barrier allocation ceremony in Sha Tin’s iconic parade ring.

Golden Sixty won his first LONGINES Hong Kong Mile in 2020 from box seven of ten and 12 months later he followed up when peeling to the outer after an inside trip from stall two.

He failed to reel in California Spangle when drawn four in the 2022 edition and, in addition to attempting to win a third title on what will be his seasonal reappearance, Vincent Ho will now need to plot a path from out wide on the eight-year-old son of Medaglia d’Oro.

“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 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.”

Asked how stall 14 changes the task for Hong Kong’s pre-eminent miler, Lui added: “I think I will leave it to the jockey. I think the horse knows what to do, he has run so many races, and it all depends on the situation.”

Francis Lui will leave the tactics to Vincent Ho.
Francis Lui will leave the tactics to Vincent Ho.

Christophe Soumillon will have a much more straightforward task from stall three aboard California Spangle, and the rematch from 12 months ago sets up with a similar scenario, albeit the two principals are drawn much wider apart this year.

Yuga Kawada is housed just outside in four on Serifos but three more of Japan’s five-strong challenge were less fortunate, with Danon The Kid, Soul Rush and Namur filling stalls ten, 11 and 12 respectively.

Lucky Sweynesse will break from stall five in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m), with Zac Purton able to eyeball defending champion Wellington in three from flag-fall.

The draw means the pair are physically separated by another leading home hope in Victor The Winner, who also split them across the line in the G2 BOCHK Private Banking Jockey Club Sprint (1200m) on 19 November.

Four-time Group 1-winner Highfield Princess must make the best of her way home from nine in a final field of ten declared on Thursday morning.

Big race jockey Jason Hart is scheduled to link up with her on the all-weather track at Sha Tin on Friday morning (8 December), after trainer John Quinn elected to give the six-year-old Night Of Thunder mare a quiet time in the quarantine stables on Thursday, following her turf breeze 24 hours earlier.

One trainer who didn’t wait for the barrier draw to declare his intentions was Hideyuki Mori.

Outside pressure seems assured from the Mori-trained Jasper Krone – the mount of Yuga Kawada – who made all in a pair of Group 3 victories in Japan this summer and attempted to repeat the tactic when fourth in the Sprinters Stakes before disappointing at the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (1000m).

Jasper Krone has searing speed.
Jasper Krone has searing speed.

Mori told the international media assembled for a Hong Kong Jockey Club press conference immediately prior to drawing stall eight: “He will lead on Sunday and set a good pace.”

Two more rivals that have been drawn in close proximity are the defending champion in the LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m), Romantic Warrior, and Japan’s number one hope for the HK$36 million feature, Prognosis, who drew stalls seven and six, respectively.

Still riding a wave of goodwill following Romantic Warrior’s historic win in the Cox Plate, owner Peter Lau told the audience: “Since he came back (from Australia) he has eaten better, his body weight is normal, and James McDonald says that in his training and trials, he feels even better.”

The Aidan O’Brien-trained quartet was mostly handed favourable post positions but Cup contender Luxembourg is parked out in ten on the short run to the first bend over 2000m.

France’s Horizon Dore has the opposite problem from stall one, given the hold-up tactics thus far employed with the three-year-old, and while he should be guaranteed to go the shortest way round, Mickael Barzalona will need the gaps to appear at the right time.

O’Brien managed to draw stall one for Yorkshire Oaks and Prix Vermeille heroine Warm Heart in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m), a potentially enticing prospect for Ryan Moore on the basis she was ridden positively in both those wins over 2400m by James Doyle.

With Shahryar withdrawn on Thursday morning, the leading Japanese chance on form would now appear to rest with Lebensstill, aboard whom Joao Moreira will break from stall seven.

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