Golden Sixty defeats Romantic Warrior and California Spangle. (HKJC/Alex Evers Photo)
Dragon’s looking to bounce back at Happy Valley
By Declan Schuster
HAPPY VALLEY, H.K.—Romantic Warrior is looking to level the score with Golden Sixty when the pair meets for the second time across their respective careers in Sunday’s (26 February) HK$12 million G1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m) at Sha Tin.
Defeated by Golden Sixty in the G1 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) last month, Romantic Warrior this weekend returns to his optimum distance which he boasts four victories over last year in the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m), G1 FWD QEII Cup (2000m), G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m) and G2 BOCHK Jockey Club Cup (2000m).
Golden Sixty is a two-time winner over the trip having triumphed in the 2020 BMW Hong Kong Derby and 2021 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup. Trainer Danny Shum is under no illusion of the task at hand as he attempts to unseat Hong Kong’s current champion.
“I think Golden Sixty will be hard to beat – we have to respect him. He’s a genius horse and it’s a hard race, for sure,” Shum said. “We’ll keep it simple – fingers crossed.”
Karis Teetan hops aboard Romantic Warrior again this weekend, while six others are set to feature including Money Catcher, Tourbillon Diamond, Ka Ying Star, Glorious Dragon, Savvy Nine and Panfield.
“He’s (Romantic Warrior) good, he’s happy – there’s been no problems. It all depends on the draw, but he should be able to sit third, fourth or fifth (in the run),” Shum said.
Francis Lui has indicated Golden Sixty – a seven-year-old now – has held his condition between runs as he chases a second Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup win and an enhancement to his all-time earnings record in Hong Kong (HK$129.69 million).
“He’s keeping his form; we’ll give him another grass gallop on Thursday morning (23 February).
“He’s still healthy, everything is fine, and I hope he can handle the distance – before he has. I think so (to appreciating 2000m more now), I think he’s more relaxed and he seems much better,” Lui said.
Golden Sixty stamped his authority over Hong Kong racing’s hierarchy last start with victory over Romantic Warrior and California Spangle, however, facing Romantic Warrior over 10 furlongs looms as the latest threat to his sustained supremacy.
“We only have two choices, the 1400 or 2000 – I prefer the 2000 metres. We’ll just jump out, relax him (Golden Sixty) – he’s stepping up in distance, so he needs to relax,” Lui said.
Tourbillon Diamond forms a two-pronged assault in the Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup for Shum, while also holding an entry for the G1 Dubai Turf (1800m) at Meydan on 25 March.
“He’s entered to run in the Dubai Turf. We’ll see how he runs in this race and whether we stick to that plan and go to Dubai or not,” Shum said.
As for California Spangle – Tony Cruz’s classy miler limbered up this morning under Zac Purton as he prepares for his G1 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m) tilt on 19 March.
“He races in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup – we’ll have one more trial before the race, it’s seven weeks between runs, so there’s not many options for him.
“He’s a very healthy horse – Zac was very happy with him, he said he was much more relaxed this morning. He goes when he wants him to go, when Zac asks the question, he goes. He’s pulled up good, we’ll just have one more trial before the run,” Cruz said.
California Spangle clocked 58.15s down the turf straight at Sha Tin and is expected to face the likes of Lucky Sweynesse and Wellington in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup.
Dragon’s looking to bounce back at Happy Valley
Danny Shum will saddle Nordic Dragon at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (22 February), hopeful the expensive Hong Kong International Sale graduate is capable of returning to winning ways when he lines up in the Class 3 O’Brien Handicap (1200m) following a lacklustre eighth at Sha Tin last month.
Vincent Ho has been in the plate for each of the four-year-old’s starts and once again takes riding duties.
“I was a little bit disappointed (with his last run) but I think he is still young and he has never raced there (at Sha Tin) before, so we can forget that and in the future, he can still go back and have more experience there,” Ho said.
Nordic Dragon cost a whopping HK$7 million at the 2022 Hong Kong International Sale; he’s already returned HK$2.59 million to his owner Edmond Yue.
“Back to 1200 metres at Happy Valley, he should run very well, he should be competitive and his fitness is back. After some time off, now I think he’s ready,” Ho said.
Vincent Ho leads the Happy Valley jockeys’ standings this season with 32 wins – six clear of Zac Purton, who holds second.
“I ride for some good stables at Happy Valley, like my ex-boss (Caspar Fownes), Francis Lui and Frankie Lor – they all perform very well at Happy Valley,” Ho said.
Meaningful Star returns for the first time since February, 2022 when he lines in the Class 3 Luard Handicap (1650m) under Ho at Happy Valley for Francis Lui.
“At this stage, the vet always suggested to give him a little bit of time. He likes Happy Valley very much, that’s why I have put him back there,” Lui said.
The chestnut suffered a left fore ligament injury in August which delayed his return this season.
“We’re happy with his trials but he hasn’t run for a very long time,” Lui said.
Wednesday’s (22 February) nine-race fixture at Happy Valley commences at 6.45pm with the second section of the Class 5 Fenwick Handicap (1200m).