Hong Kong runners dominate their big international race day

By Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer
Golden Sixty romps in Sunday's Longines Hong Kong Mile. Photo courtesy of Hong Kong Jockey Club
1 of 2 | Golden Sixty romps in Sunday's Longines Hong Kong Mile. Photo courtesy of Hong Kong Jockey Club

HONG KONG, Dec. 11 (UPI) -- Local runners dominated the Longines Hong Kong International Races and a potential star filly remained unbeaten with a Grade 1 win in Japan in highlights of international horse racing action.

Diving right in:


Hong Kong

Sunday's Longines Hong Kong International Races were a star turn for the local brigades, with Golden Sixty, Romantic Warrior and Lucky Sweynesse winning three of the four Group 1 events.

Eight-year-old Golden Sixty overcame a 224-day layoff and the outside gate to run away with the Longines Hong Kong Mile in an emotional highlight of the program.

The three-time Hong Kong Horse of the Year and former local Triple Crown winner is a favorite of Hong Kong fans, who backed him strongly despite the negative indications.

Jockey Vincent Ho did his job helping the veteran. After a clean break, Ho gradually eased Golden Sixty in from the cheap seats and, while he could never get cover, he was perfectly positioned at the top of the straight to make a run at the leaders.


He did just that, quickly roaring to the front as the crowd roared its approval and ran on to win by 1 1/2 lengths over reigning Hong Kong Derby winner Voyage Bubble. Japan's Namur was third.

"He's a monster," Ho said. "When I asked, he just gave me 100%. It's a great team effort to come here without any preparation and win this race."

Both Ho and trainer Francis Lui indicated Golden Sixty is likely to continue racing as long as he continues to perform at a high level.

While Golden Sixty is the local golden boy, Romantic Warrior is next in line and did nothing to hurt his reputation with a squeaker of a victory over Irish challenger Luxembourg in the Longines Hong Kong Cup.

Coming off a tough, narrow win in the Group 1 Cox Plate in Australia in his previous race, Romantic Warrior rallied to the front in the stretch run of the 2,000-meter Cup, only to be met by a stubborn challenge from Luxembourg and a long shot bid by another Japanese runner, Hishi Iguazu.

Romantic Warrior prevailed by a short head with Luxembourg second, another short head to the good of Hishi Iguazu.

"I think he's the toughest racehorse I've ever sat on," winning rider James McDonald said.


The Longines Hong Kong Sprint (G1) historically has been the preserve of local runners, and Lucky Sweynesse, an unlucky loser in last year's edition, kept the home cooking going with a rallying victory under jockey Zac Purton.

Lucky Sweynesse survived a rough stretch early in the season, losing his first two starts while assigned huge weights by the handicapper.

Back at even weights Sunday, Lucky Sweynesse defeated long shot Lucky With You by 3/4 length, with last year's winner, Wellington, another 3/4 length back in third.

"He deserved it," Purton said. "I could just feel in the mornings that he was getting back to where he was. ... He did what he had to do. I love him."

The day wasn't a total loss for the foreign runners as French-based Junko came with a late run to win the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Vase (G1) by 1 length over Japan's Zeffiro after missing the break.

Ireland's Warm Heart finished third.

Junko came to Hong Kong off a victory in the Group 1 Grosser Preis von Bayern in Munich, but was a question mark over the good-to-firm Hong Kong turf. He handled both the going and a glacial pace perfectly for jockey Maxime Guyon and trainer Andre Fabre.



Ascoli Piceno took a major step down a road to potential stardom with a gutsy victory in Sunday's Grade 1 Hanshin Juvenile Fillies at Hanshin Racecourse. While lowering the stakes record to 1:32.6, the Daiwa Major filly ran her record to three wins without a loss.

With Hiroshi Kitamura up, Ascoli Piceno rallied from midfield turning into the stretch, found a seam and got to the front inside the 100-meter mark. At that point, she was challenged on the inside by late-running Stellenbosch and was all out to hold that one off by a neck.

"The filly broke better than in her previous start, was relaxed during the race and responded well in the stretch," Kitamura said. "I was a bit worried for a second that we were going to get caught but she gave her all, all the way to the line.

"The stable staff did a great job and she was in very good condition, so I had every confidence in her."

The race has been a star-making turn, with previous victories by eventual Horse of the Year honorees Vodka and Buena Vista. Liberty Island, a star still in the making, won last year.

Japanese 2-year-olds also will be featured in the 1,600-meter Grade 1 Asahi Hai Futurity on Sunday at Hanshin and the 2,000-meter Hopeful Stakes, also a Grade 1 event, Dec. 28 at Nakayama Racecourse.



It's early innings yet in the desert, but that won't stop the connections of Colour Up for dreaming of World Cup Night glory after the 5-year-old Mehmas gelding overcame a messy start to win Friday night's listed Garhoud Sprint at Meydan Racecourse.

The winner was bumped soundly out of the gate, and then forced wide around the turn. He took the lead at the top of the straight and found just enough to hold off Leading spirit by 1/4 length.

"These are the races we all come for," jockey Sam Hitchcott said

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