Francis Lui is expecting the Hong Kong Stewards’ Cup to provide another significant test for his superstar Golden Sixty as he bids for a 12th consecutive victory at Sha Tin.
Golden Sixty will be a long odds-on favourite as he vies for Sunday’s HK$12million prize against seven rivals – six of whom he has defeated previously.
Only Rise High has not crossed paths with the Australian-bred, but Lui is not allowing himself to become complacent.
“He’s OK, he’s in good form,” he said of his prolific winner.
“I really think at this moment that he’s ready.
“Most of the horses have run recently, which will bring up their condition, so I think it’s going to be competitive.”
Golden Sixty has dominated the Hong Kong racing scene for much of the past two years, winning 14 of his 15 starts since making his first appearance for Lui in 2019.
Each of those triumphs, and indeed the sole loss, has been on the home turf of Sha Tin racecourse – where Lui is based and trains his string.
Golden Sixty took his first Group contest last January when winning the Chinese Club Challenge Cup over seven furlongs, before gradually stepping up in trip to eventually land the Hong Kong Derby – run over 10 furlongs.
This season the son of Medaglia d’Oro has been campaigned largely over a mile and has continued his unstoppable rise to the summit of that division.
He took two consecutive Group Two prizes in the shape of the Sha Tin Trophy and the Jockey Club Mile.
The latter was his 11th straight win – surpassing the achievement of the recently-retired Beauty Generation, who had recorded 10 consecutive wins on Hong Kong turf.
On his first foray into Group One company, in the Longines Hong Kong Mile in December, Golden Sixty took on stiff European competition for the first time.
But Ballydoyle’s Order Of Australia, shock Breeders’ Cup Mile winner on his previous start, was easily swept aside – along with 2018 Irish 2,000 Guineas hero Romanised, and Beauty Generation.
Beyond this weekend’s Group One bid, Lui has a return to 10 furlongs in mind as he targets the Hong Kong Gold Cup next and then considers either the Champions Mile or the Queen Elizabeth II Cup, both top-level events run in April.
“After this race, next month, he’ll go for the Gold Cup,” he said.
“I’m preparing for the Gold Cup, and then after that it will be April’s race.”
Overseas fans of Golden Sixty may have to wait until next season to see him run internationally, however, with Lui confirming that the Covid-19 pandemic has scuppered any plans of a venture abroad.
He said: “I’m asked if I will send the horse overseas – but at this stage, because of the coronavirus, I’m likely to keep him in Hong Kong.”
Although targets such as Meydan’s Dubai Turf, Royal Ascot’s Queen Anne Stakes or the Breeders’ Cup in November may seem to suit Golden Sixty’s profile, Lui is more inclined to look to Japan’s racing calendar as he maps out future possibilities.
“If I was to plan overseas races then I think I would prefer Japan,” he said.
“I don’t have a race in my mind at the moment – but if I was to go overseas then my first option would be Japan, maybe Royal Ascot, potentially. I’m not so sure about Dubai.”
Lui welcomes the idea too that more international big-hitters may head to Hong Kong to take on his stable star.
“Of course, I like the overseas horses to come to Hong Kong,” he said.
“It’s good for us, they’re very good races for the international horses to come over and run in.”
In the meantime, Lui admits he does feel the responsibility of training an apparently infallible horse.
“Of course the horse brings my name up, raises my profile – but sometimes we are under pressure,” he added.
“That’s why we really look after the horse. He’s one of the best horses in Hong Kong, (so) I have to take good care of him.”
“We are trying to keep that (record) up, to go on and break any records. I will try my best. He is the best – he’s the best horse I’ve trained.”