Francis Lui is in an unusual position. Not only does he occupy a high berth in the trainers’ standings approaching the season’s halfway mark but he also has two of Hong Kong’s most exciting four-year-old prospects in his care.
Golden Sixty and More Than This could well go to post as the top two in the market for Monday’s (27 January) Hong Kong Classic Mile, the first of three contests that make up the Four-Year-Old Classic Series.
Lui’s current situation is not entirely anomalous though: the handler, 61 and licensed since 1996, has tasted big-race four-year-old success before, when his Hello Pretty won the Hong Kong Derby Trial. That was in 2006 prior to the race title being modified to become the Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) – he ended that campaign with 24 wins for 13th in premiership, almost bang on his career average.
Since then, Lui’s profile has changed, steadily and almost inconspicuously; first of major note came the exploits of Lucky Bubbles, who emerged from a solid fourth in the 2016 Classic Mile to highlight the trainer’s skills with a G1 victory in the Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m) of 2017.
Rolling with that success, Lui’s position has strengthened; he had a career peak 46 wins in 2017/18 to take fifth in the championship – one of four top-10 finishes in the past six seasons – and is now second in the title race with 31 wins, a tally that matches the number he posted for the whole of last season. But the arrival in his yard of More Than This – for G1-winning owner Huang Kai Wen – and the emergence of Golden Sixty, have him well-placed to take another step forward.