Hong Kong Gold Cup Thriller On Sunday

Sha Tin first due off @ 07h00 on Sunday

Setting the scene for the first showdown between the two most recent winners of the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m), James McDonald concedes Voyage Bubble represents a serious challenge for Hong Kong’s ruling middle-distance champion Romantic Warrior in the Gr1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup at Sha Tin on Sunday.

Romantic Warrior wins the 2023 Gr1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (Pic – HKJC)

In the unique position of having ridden Sunday’s two leading combatants to Gr1 victory at their most recent starts, McDonald has telling faith in Romantic Warrior as Danny Shum’s flagbearer bids for a sixth triumph at the highest level.

Resuming after a courageous success in the Gr1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup at Sha Tin on 10 December, 132-rater Romantic Warrior remains the horse to beat, according to the New Zealander.

“Romantic’s beaten most of these before, but he hasn’t beaten Voyage Bubble, he’s the new kid on the block, I suppose,” said McDonald, who was in the saddle when Voyage Bubble landed the G1r Stewards’ Cup at Sha Tin on 21 January.

“Voyage Bubble’s got his own challenges taking on the ‘beast’, Romantic Warrior, over 2000m. They’re both extremely good horses and both basically at the peak of their powers.

Voyage Bubble clinches his first Group 1 in the Stewards’ Cup (Pic – HKJC)

“Voyage Bubble’s win in the Stewards’ Cup was great, and Romantic Warrior’s form is impeccable – winning the Cox Plate and Hong Kong Cup, beating a fantastic field in the Hong Kong Cup.

“He’s drawn wide (11), but it is what it is. The Warrior will get it done.”

Bidding to join Vengeance Of Rain and Designs On Rome as the only horses since the start of the century to win each of Hong Kong’s top-level 2000m races – the Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup, LONGINES Hong Kong Cup and FWD QEII Cup – Romantic Warrior will chase a fifth Gr1 under McDonald, who was also aboard in the 2023 Gr1 FWD QEII Cup, consecutive LONGINES Hong Kong Cups (2022 and 2023) and a historic Gr1 W.S. Cox Plate triumph in Australia.

“He’s had a few crowning moments and it would be nice to have this on the mantelpiece as well,” McDonald said of the Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup.

“He’s such a good horse, I just love riding him. He’s just one of those horses who’s different to most. You just go to the races pretty much unfazed and you just get the job done nearly every time. You know he’s going to do his absolute best – and that makes two of us.

“I just admire the horse. He’s an extremely good galloper, as tough as they come and I’ve got great respect for him.”

Zac Purton, who rides Voyage Bubble for the first time since 2022, will start from barrier seven on Ricky Yiu’s charge, while Straight Arron, Beauty Joy, Champion Dragon, Five G Patch, Nimble Nimbus, Senor Toba, Sword Point, Money Catcher and Encountered complete a quality field.

Sunday’s 10-race fixture at Sha Tin starts at 07h00 with the Class 4 Citi Global Wealth Handicap.

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