Golden Sixty 50-50 for Japan, O’Sullivan praises ‘terrific’ Leung

Golden Sixty is a 50-50 chance to travel to Japan for next month’s Group One Yasuda Kinen (1,600m), according to trainer Francis Lui Kin-wai.

Lui and Golden Sixty’s owner Stanley Chan Ka-leung will have lunch on Monday to make a final decision on whether the reigning Horse of the Year heads abroad for the first time.

While the star six-year-old’s winning streak ended at 16 in January – one short of Silent Witness’ Hong Kong record – Golden Sixty returned to his very best with wins in the Group Two Chairman’s Trophy and the Group One Champions Mile last month.

The six-time Group One winner has faced Japanese opposition twice on home soil and never been troubled, with Salios getting the closest when two lengths adrift in December’s Hong Kong Mile.

Leung impresses O’Sullivan

Paul O’Sullivan carried on from his midweek double with another winner on Saturday and the affable New Zealander was quick to give credit to jockey Derek Leung Ka-chun.

While O’Sullivan was sporting a wry smile as he exaggerated the feats of Leung, there is no doubt the jockey’s efforts to position Vukan one-off the rail forward of midfield from the outside gate was the winning move.

“They’ll be talking about that ride for years to come, for sure,” O’Sullivan said. “Derek said before the race ‘I think they’ll go quick and there might be a hole in the middle’ and that’s how it turned out. It doesn’t always turn out like that but it did today, so it was very good.”

Leung started to wind Vukan up as they turned for home in the Class Five Lotus Handicap (1,600m) and the five-year-old wore down Mister Monte before holding off Daily Beauty to salute by half a length.

It was Vukan’s first run in the cellar grade and the victory will catapult him straight back into Class Four company, where he has saluted once from 16 starts.

“The mile suits him now and he just toughed it out,” O’Sullivan said. “I think as he’s got older he probably wants to go further, he just hasn’t got a lot of early speed and he possibly could get 1,800m later in the season. It was a good, tough win.”

Wong a winner again

Victories have been few and far between for Victor Wong Chun in the past two seasons but the 28-year-old was savouring that winning feeling once again on Saturday after piloting the Dennis Yip Chor-hong-trained Faulds to victory in the first section of the Class Four Erica Handicap (1,200m).

Wong had to wait until the final meeting for his single success last campaign but he now has two in the bag for the 2021-22 season after landing his first victory since December.

“I’ve been waiting for a long time to get a winner and to get back that winning feeling again is really good,” Wong said.

“I’ve been working hard so hopefully I can improve my results and I hope I can get a licence for next season.”

A winner of his only start in Australia, Faulds was having his first start in Class Four after starting his Hong Kong career on a mark of 66.

Positioned midfield by Wong, the three-year-old proved too strong for his rivals in the home straight to reward his followers at the juicy odds of $35.

“I just listened to what the trainer said and did my best. To get the result is great,” Wong said.

“I was a bit surprised. The horse dropped in class and he improved. He was very comfortable in the run and he finished off really well.”

Faulds’ success was also a welcome one for Yip, who entered the meeting on a run of outs longer than any other trainer with 60 starters since his last winner in a dry spell dating back to March 30.

The 54-year-old had endured nine placings in that period and he now has 20 victories for the season, 14 less than what he managed in 2020-21 with 19 meetings remaining.

It’s been a roller-coaster season for Yip, who started proceedings strongly with six winners in September but has attracted attention for the wrong reasons for much of the time since.

He became the first key Hong Kong racing participant to catch Covid-19 in February and then in March he was the second trainer, after Frankie Lor Fu-chuen, to be fined for breaching the Jockey Club’s “racing bubble” for having lunch at a public restaurant with someone who wasn’t a member of his household.

That indiscretion cost Yip HK$600,000 and then last month he was fined HK$150,000 for failing to report that his horse Solar Winds had bled during trackwork in December.

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