Hong Kong star Romantic Warrior will attempt to win Australian racing’s most prized weight-for-age contest, the AU$5 million Gr1 W.S. Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley on Saturday from the race’s most successful barrier.
The W.S. Cox Plate allows connections to choose their own barrier and trainer Danny Shum was delighted when his assistant Ben So selected barrier seven, the same gate successfully used by three winners this century – Fields Of Omagh (2006), El Segundo (2007) and So You Think (2009) – and a record 16 winners overall, including the legendary Phar Lap in 1931.
“I think it’s a reasonable draw, I’m happy with it,” Shum said before indicating he will instruct jockey James McDonald to ride an uncomplicated race on Romantic Warrior, who will face 11 rivals including his Gr1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) conqueror, Gold Trip.
“I will say to James to ride a simple race. If he can settle with some cover, he will hit the line strong. If we handle the sharp turn, I think we’ve got a good chance of winning the Cox Plate.
Danny Shum hopes to become the first Hong Kong-based trainer to win the W.S. Cox Plate.
“It’s a great honour to come here. Actually, I’ve been here 25 years ago when I was an assistant trainer, so it’s a really great honour to send a horse to run in the Cox Plate – one of the most major races in Australia.
“If I can win and create history, that has big meaning for me and The Hong Kong Jockey Club. There is pressure but it’s motivation for me. I like to take the pressure. My nickname is Iron Man in Hong Kong, so pressure for me is not a problem.”
Shum expects Romantic Warrior to improve significantly on his last-start fourth to Gr1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) winner Gold Trip at Flemington on 7 October.
“He hadn’t raced in something like four and a half months, since May 28. He was racing for the first time left-handed, there was long travel and there were a lot of difficulties leading into the race,” Shum said. “He had not a great run in the Turnbull Stakes, but it was an acceptable run.
“I think he was 70-80 percent fit (before the Turnbull). He can’t be 100 percent (now). I think 90-95 percent, something like this. He had two gallops here on the turf and every time
James gave me a very positive report. He handled Moonee Valley well.
“My team has done a very good job. He needed to have a run in the Turnbull Stakes to get used to the left-handed track and he will improve from the Turnbull Stakes. He didn’t win, but we didn’t panic because the main target is the Cox Plate.
“I think he should be the favourite, according to form.”
Zac Purton’s mount Fangirl drew barrier nine in Saturday’s showpiece for trainer Chris Waller, while Aidan O’Brien-trained three-year-old Victoria Road will start from barrier six under Blake Shinn.
Romantic Warrior will become the fourth Hong Kong galloper to contest the Gr1 W.S. Cox Plate following David Hill’s River Verdon (11th in 1994), David Hayes-trained Elegant Fashion (ninth in 2004) and John Moore’s Super Kid (seventh in 2005).
The Moonee Valley racemeeting starts at 03h10.