Vincent Ho has downplayed Golden Sixty's outside draw as Blake Shinn plots the champion's downfall aboard Russian Emperor in the HKD$12 million Group 1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (20 February).
Stung by Golden Sixty's first defeat in 17 starts when second to Waikuku in last month's Group 1 Stewards' Cup (1600m), Ho has no plans to dwell on the upset – nor the navigational challenges posed from barrier 10 in the short run to the first turn.
“Draw 10 makes things a lot more simple, I would say,” Ho said, hinting the six-year-old would be initially allowed to find rhythm at the tail of the field before unleashing late. “(I'll) just relax him early wherever he is comfortable. As long as he relaxes, we're happy.
“Every race is different, this coming race is totally different as well – different gate, different horses – and, of course, the experience of running 2000 metres is not a problem for him, so it's just another race but we'll just have to start (a new winning streak) from zero.”
Chasing a 20th victory from 22 starts, Golden Sixty returns to 2000m for only the third time in his career – and the first time since scrambling to short-head victory in last season's Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup over Furore. His only other assignment over the distance resulted in a neck margin triumph over Playa Del Puente in the 2020 BMW Hong Kong Derby.
Blake Shinn believes Russian Emperor has the quality to expose Golden Sixty's perceived vulnerability at 2000m but holds enormous respect for Hong Kong's highest-rated (131) horse.
“Golden Sixty at 2000 metres is probably stretching him to his best, so he's going to have to perform at a very, very high level to beat Russian Emperor. I know my horse is going to run at an absolute maximum effort,” Shinn said.
“So, we're going to test Golden Sixty, no matter what. It's going to be a great race.
“It's great to be reunited with Russian Emperor again, I've had three rides on him now and he's run great all three times. He's a very classy horse and I think he's due for a win at the elite level in Hong Kong.
“He's been really knocking on the door and hopefully he can get his chance to get that elusive win at the weekend and I think the race presents well for him. We've obviously got one big task ahead of us – Golden Sixty – but I think my horse is ready for it.
“Last time, we got beat a length and a half by Golden Sixty and Waikuku (in the Group 1 Stewards' Cup) – they're the best milers in Hong Kong. We go to 2000m now.
“The last time Russian Emperor was at 2000m (LONGINES Hong Kong Cup on 12 December), he got beat by the two Japanese horses (Loves Only You and Hishi Iguazu) and ran an unbelievable race.”
Sunday's field features a rematch of the first three home in the 2021 BMW Hong Kong Derby – Sky Darci, Russian Emperor and Panfield, last season's Hong Kong Champion Stayer – as well as More Than This, Tourbillon Diamond, Reliable Team, Butterfield, Savvy Nine and Zebrowski.
“I'm glad to be back and I think I have very competitive rides,” said the Frenchman, who rides crack sprinter Wellington in the Group 1 Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup for Richard Gibson. “I expect some good results.”