Romantic Warrior grabs sixth Group 1 gold, Latest Racing News - The New Paper

Romantic Warrior grabs sixth Group 1 gold

HONG KONG - Romantic Warrior enhanced his status as one of the world’s premier middle-distance gallopers with a gripping victory in the HK$13 million (S$2.23 million) Group 1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (2,000m), after a stirring battle with Voyage Bubble at Sha Tin on Feb 25.

He will be given the chance to create more history by chasing a record third Group 1 FWD QEII Cup (2,000m) victory in April.

The first Hong Kong International Sale graduate to win the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2,000m), he became only the third horse since the turn of the century, after Vengeance Of Rain and Designs on Rome, to snare all three of Hong Kong’s top-level 2,000m contests – the Hong Kong Gold Cup, QEII Cup and Hong Kong Cup.

Danny Shum’s champion will now bid for a fourth major this season by pressing for an unprecedented third FWD QEII Cup win.

He had already snared the Group 1 W. S. Cox Plate (2,040m) at Moonee Valley, Australia, in October 2023 and a second Longines Hong Kong Cup in December, before adding a sixth Group 1 success in the Hong Kong Gold Cup.

Having partnered Romantic Warrior to a fifth Group 1 win, jockey James McDonald was awestruck by the gelding’s effort to fend off fellow Hong Kong Derby victor Voyage Bubble by a neck.

The pair had forged clear at the 300m in an electrifying tussle.

Having drawn the outside of 11 runners, McDonald crossed to the rails on Romantic Warrior after only 400m and then was stalked by Purton on Voyage Bubble until the field approached the turn.

While Purton fanned into the clear to take the lead, as Sword Point and Money Catcher faded, McDonald angled between runners to challenge.

After a fierce stoush in the straight, Romantic Warrior gradually edged out the Group 1 Stewards’ Cup (1,600m) winner in 2min 00.31sec.

Nimble Nimbus was a brave third, three lengths away under Andrea Atzeni.

“He is unreal, he just keeps surprising me – an unbelievable horse,” said McDonald, revealing his absolute faith in Romantic Warrior was critical to tactical decision-making.

“He’s the undisputed champion. He deserves all the accolades he gets. I can’t stress how much of a privilege it is to ride him.

“He’s the horse that does it all. He makes you look good all the time. His tenacity (and) will to win is phenomenal. I suppose instincts kicked in and (I) went with the flow.

“When you ride such good horses, you can do what you want to do and, even if I made a little mistake during the race, he is probably good enough to overcome it and that was probably my mindset.”

Revealing that he was worried pre-race, Shum was jubilant after Romantic Warrior posted his 13th win from 18 starts and boosted his prize money to more than HK$127 million.

The horse was bought by owner Peter Lau at the 2022 Hong Kong International Sale for HK$4.8 million.

Shum’s big concern was the widest draw, thinking the rival jockeys would not let him in and push him three or four-deep.

“I talked to James this morning. I said ‘Give him his chance and, if you jump good, you can push him and put him inside’,” he said. “James is very smart, he knows what to do.”

Shum indicated a tilt at the Group 1 Yasuda Kinen (1,600m) in Japan in June remains an option for Romantic Warrior. HKJC