James McDonald Upbeat Over Romantic Warrior Assignment

The first race at Sha Tin is off at 06h45

James McDonald has telling faith in Romantic Warrior as the mercurial talent resumes in the HK$5 million Gr2 BOCHK Jockey Club Cup (2000m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (20 November), when the four-year-old concedes fitness and experience to more seasoned rivals.

Romantic Warrior resumes at Sha Tin on Sunday (Pic – HKJC)

First-up since crowning an extraordinary debut season with Gr1 FWD QEII Cup (2000m) success on 24 April, the BMW Hong Derby (2000m) winner will be partnered by all-conquering McDonald for the first time as the gelding’s regular rider Karis Teetan continues his recovery from illness.

McDonald, who has slotted eight Gr1s in Australia since August, is excited to be riding Romantic Warrior for Danny Shum in preparation for the HK$110 million LONGINES Hong Kong International Races (HKIR) on 11 December.

“He (Romantic Warrior) looks like an absolute pleasure to ride,” McDonald said. “He’s taken all before him here in Hong Kong. He’s got a fantastic record, he’s a real trier and to get an opportunity to ride such a good horse here in Hong Kong is a real privilege. I’m really looking forward to the challenge and hopefully he runs well.

“He’s phenomenal, really. His record is pretty self-explanatory, really. He puts himself in a good position in races and makes his own luck and he’s as tough as anything late in the piece – you don’t get a record like he does if he’s not a great horse and I’m sure he’ll show his true wares there on Sunday.”

Acknowledging the challenges surrounding Shum’s unconventional preparation with Romantic Warrior, McDonald said: “They’re very pleased – 2000m first-up is obviously never easy but he’s definitely got class on his side as a Hong Kong Derby winner. It’s nothing to be sneezed at and resuming over 2000m, he must be very forward and I’m sure Danny has got him right where he wants to in terms of improvement going into the international series, but he’s here to run very well. I’m excited to be on him.”

Romantic Warrior (128lb) will jump from the outside of the nine-horse field for McDonald with fellow Gr1s Russian Emperor (128lb) and Panfield (123lb) in gates seven and eight, respectively.

McDonald is joined at Sha Tin this weekend by fellow Australians Hugh Bowman and Blake Shinn, who has returned to Hong Kong to resume his partnership with Douglas Whyte’s Russian Emperor, and Frenchman Mickael Barzalona.

Blake Shinn reunites with Russian Emperor (Pic – HKJC)

Shinn will also link up with Sky Field (128lb) for Caspar Fownes when last season’s Gr1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) winner contests the Gr2 BOCHK Private Banking Jockey Club Sprint (1200m) against a quality line-up headed by Wellington (128lb).

With nine wins from the past four meetings, Brazilian Silvestre de Sousa is keen to maintain the momentum with a full book on Sunday as he attempts to secure a spot in the LONGINES International Jockeys’ Championship at Happy Valley on 7 December.

“I’ve been working really hard to get myself into that position and hopefully I can get there. It’s a lovely night to ride against some of the greatest jockeys in the saddle at the moment. I’m looking forward to that and I hope to get there,” said De Sousa, who sits third in the Hong Kong jockeys’ championship with 16 wins behind Zac Purton (40) and Vincent Ho (18).

“The IJC is very special and it’s known all over the world. The International races are so competitive as well.”

De Sousa rides Cordyceps Six for Richard Gibson in the Gr2 BOCHK Private Banking Jockey Club Sprint (1200m) and Panfield for Tony Millard in the Gr2 BOCHK Jockey Club Cup (2000m).

The lightweight also takes the mount on John Size’s Waikuku (128lb) in the HK$5 million BOCHK Private Wealth Jockey Club Mile (1600m), which marks the return of Hong Kong’s two-time Horse of the Year Golden Sixty (128lb) for Ho and Francis Lui.

As there have been no winners of the entire the Triple Trio pool across the past six day meetings in Hong Kong, a jackpot of over HK$39.3 million will be carried forward to the pool for this Sunday’s fixture at Sha Tin. It is estimated that a single HK$10 winning unit could pay up to HK$60 million, higher than any Triple Trio dividend so far throughout the 2021/22 racing season.

Sunday’s (20 November) meeting at Sha Tin starts with the Class 3 BOCHK Cross-Border Services Handicap (2000m) at 06h45.

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