Top Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien narrowly missed out on claiming his first Hong Kong Cup success when Luxembourg just failed to overhaul Romantic Warrior at Sha Tin Racecourse over the weekend.
Jockey James McDonald gave Romantic Warrior an inspired ride, settling the horse just behind the leaders before making a decisive move around the final turn.
Ryan Moore galvanised Luxembourg during the final furlong, but he was unable to catch the local favourite and missed out by a short head in a desperate finish.
The result saved the leading horse racing betting sites in Ireland from making a massive payout, with Irish punters wagering heavily on Luxembourg to win the race.
While O’Brien was disappointed not to break his duck in one of the world’s most prestigious races, he was gracious in defeat after the event.
“It shows how competitive it is here and Romantic Warrior and Luxembourg ran within half a pound of what they’re rated,” O’Brien said.
“It’s good for Hong Kong racing and makes it very competitive worldwide. When they come together like that you can compare ratings and that’s what you want. Next year we’ll try again.”
“The line came on the wrong nod, but he ran a stormer and Ryan gave him a great ride. He’s brave and he tries very hard. He’s not been over-raced and it’s very possible he will race on.”
O’Brien was also out of luck with his other runners, with Warm Heart running out of steam late in the day to finish third behind Junko and Zeffiro in the Hong Kong Vase.
His Aesop’s Fables was disappointing as he trailed home last in the Hong Kong Sprint, while Cairo finished 10th of 14 runners in the Hong Kong Mile.
The latter race saw local legend Golden Sixty produce a spine-tingling performance to win the race for the third time and take his tally of Group One triumphs to ten.
The eight-year-old powered clear of his rivals under a stunning ride by jockey Vincent Ho, before being heavily eased down on his way to a length-and-half-victory.
“He’s a monster,” Ho said. “When I asked him for an effort, he lengthened like I can’t believe. He’s still got that turn of foot – it’s crazy!
“I got the wide cover I wanted and he never travelled keen with me, he was so relaxed all the way. Then, when I asked him for effort, he gave me 100 percent.
“It’s madness. It’s not easy to come here with a high level without any preparation, so it’s amazing.”
Golden Sixty’s victory made him just the second horse to win three times at the fixture and the manner of his success left connections pondering his future.
There has been talk that the horse would be retired after running in two more Group One races early next year, but trainer Francis Lui may be forced to rethink those plans.
However, if Golden Sixty continues to run he will not venture outside of Hong Kong, with Lui adamant he would resist the temptation to campaign him at international racecourses.
“He’s my champion,” Lui said. “When he hit the front, I knew he’d win. Everyone loves this horse and they all want to see him win.
“He’s still enjoying his racing and I’ll let the horse tell me what to do, but I think there’s no point in taking him overseas. My job is to keep him happy and healthy.”