44577 On Course As Hong Kong Star Shines Bright In Tokyo

A third winner for Hong Kong

Romantic Warrior completed an extraordinary season with victory in the Gr1 Yasuda Kinen at Tokyo Racecourse on Sunday morning, in a stunning performance which left jockey James McDonald almost speechless as Danny Shum’s globe-trotter snared a fifth successive Group 1 feature.

Underlining his status as one of the world’s premier gallopers, Romantic Warrior became Hong Kong’s third Yasuda Kinen victor, joining Fairy King Prawn (2000) and Bullish Luck (2006), while Voyage Bubble under Zac Purton finished a distant 17th of the 18 runners.

Romantic Warrior wins Yasuda Kinen

James Mcdonald has Romantic Warrior in front where it counts (Pic – HKJC)

With elite level victories in the Gr1 W.S. Cox Plate (2040m), Gr1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m), Gr1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m), Gr1 FWD QEII Cup (2000m) and today’s success, Romantic Warrior clinched his eighth Group 1 overall, enhancing his career record to 15 wins from 20 starts.

Settling fifth, Romantic Warrior was angled into the clear in the home straight as the field climbed the sharp rise near the 300m mark before striking the lead. Driven out by McDonald, Romantic Warrior had half a length to spare on the line from Namur (Yutaka Take), while Soul Rush was a further nose further back under Joao Moreira.

Watched in steady rain by a crowd of 44 577, Romantic Warrior clocked 1m 32.30s.

“James McDonald is world-class and he gave him a great ride. He loves Romantic Warrior and Romantic Warrior loves him a lot. He always tries his best for James,” Shum said. “I wasn’t too nervous because I was confident in my horse, my team and my jockey.”

Composing himself after posting his first win in Japan in one of the nation’s premier races, McDonald said: “He’s a champion racehorse and it’s a very proud day for all of us – the whole team – because to showcase him to Japan was something very, very special in such a prestigious race.

“I’m almost lost for words when I ride this horse because he’s got a big heart and he tries his best all the time. It’s such a hard jurisdiction to race in. There’s such good horses and great jockeys so it’s an absolute privilege to be here and to be winning such a prestigious race is very, very special.”

Earning HK$9 million for the victory, Romantic Warrior – a Hong Kong International Sale graduate and BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) winner – has now amassed HK$151 million in prizemoney, a figure bettered only by Golden Sixty’s HK$167 million.

In the post-race elation, Shum ruled out a tilt at the Gr1 Takarazuka Kinen (2200m) at Kyoto on 23 June and confirmed Romantic Warrior would return to Hong Kong with Voyage Bubble early this week to be spelled.

“I think the best thing for the horse is to give him a break and let him rest. He’s not going to race anymore this season,” Shum said.

Purton, who rode Paul O’Sullivan-trained Aerovelocity in Hong Kong’s previous victory in Japan with success in the 2015 Gr1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen (1200m) at Chukyo Racecourse, said Voyage Bubble failed to handle the left-handed track.

“The barrier (gate 15) didn’t make a difference – I got beat 20 lengths,” he said.

“He’s handled soft ground in Hong Kong before. He travelled on it today, his action was fine. I don’t think the track was a concern for us. He just didn’t fire in the straight. That’s twice now he’s gone left-handed and he’s performed poorly both times, so I think left-handed is not really suitable for him – get him back going right-handed.”

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