Romantic Warrior shines in Longines Group 1 Hong Kong Cup

Romantic Warrior justified favouritism to narrowly win the Longines Group 1 Hong Kong Cup (2000m) when defeating Luxembourg by a short-head, with outsider Hishi Iguazu a further short-head away third.

ROMANTIC WARRIOR winning the 2023 G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m) at Sha Tin Racecourse.
ROMANTIC WARRIOR winning the 2023 G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m) at Sha Tin Racecourse. Picture: The Hong Kong Jockey Club

In a tactical race, James McDonald on board Romantic Warrior positioned the horse in the box seat, with Ryan Moore tracking the market leader on Luxembourg. Moore made his move approaching the home turn forcing McDonald to set Romantic Warrior alight. Inside the final furlong, Romantic Warrior was left in front, and challengers began to line up. Luxembourg initially looked to be dropping off but stayed on with one last challenge but narrowly failed to reel in the Hong Kong star.

French horse Horizon Doré was well supported late in betting, but again, missed the break and raced freely during the middle stages.

Backing up following his trip to Melbourne and winning the Group 1 Cox Plate, an over-the-moon James McDonald said: "I'm so proud of this horse. He's the best horse. He's one of the toughest horses I've ever ridden, that's what makes him so special.

He's so easy to ride and he's got a heart as big as a lion. He's had the trip to Australia - this is his best win."

"It was probably the most nervous I've ever been riding the horse," said McDonald. "Everything's been pretty straightforward but there's always that unknown, coming back from Australia after a really tough run in the Cox Plate and a tough run in the Turnbull.

"I'm incredibly proud of him and humbled to be associated with a horse like that."

Winning trainer Danny Shum was quick to praise the resolution and toughness of his stable star.

"No matter how he was in trackwork, it's not easy at all, "said Shum. "We're lucky that Romantic Warrior is a real warrior."

"He had a hard race and then two days off and a long flight.

"If you're a human being, when you go overseas you get jet lag, whereas a horse just stays on the box. He's a tough, tough horse and I love him."

Success at Sha Tin on Sunday saw the son of Acclamation become the third horse in Hong Kong racing history to pass the HK$100 million mark and although further foreign campaigns could be part of Romantic Warrior's future, Shum said he would leave the decision down to owner Peter Lau.

"I never told Peter (what to do), he gave me the decision and I followed his plan," said Shum. "I don't think it was his best performance this time; he can do better, we know that.

"But just think about the long flight and a tough race before quarantine. You can imagine it's really, really hard for a horse. But he can take it, he's too good."

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