All systems go for Romantic Warrior in Turnbull Stakes

Trainer Danny Shum and Romantic Warrior at Werribee.

Danny Shum is hopeful Romantic Warrior can cast aside 15 quality rivals when he lines up in Saturday’s Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) at Flemington, however, the trainer is expecting his triple Group 1 winner to improve out of his first Australian race and reach tip-top condition for his Group 1 W.S. Cox Plate (2040m) tilt on October 28 at Moonee Valley.

Speaking to media on Wednesday morning at Werribee in Melbourne, Australia, Shum declared his delight after seeing Romantic Warrior – who appeared in fine heart at trackwork under work rider Gary Lau – ahead of this weekend’s contest.

“I do think he’s fit enough to handle (this weekend’s race), for him, it’s the potential and I never doubt his potential.

“When I watched James McDonald gallop him at Flemington on Sunday, I was really, really happy, and I absolutely agree with James when he said, ‘the horse is really good, the horse has improved day-by-day and after the Turnbull Stakes, I think he’ll be spot on for the Cox Plate’,” Shum said.

Romantic Warrior was led out on Wednesday morning by his mafoo Chan Chun-yin alongside stablemate Romantic Charm, who was ridden by Ben So. The pair worked a few circuits of the inner sand course at Werribee before returning to the stables in front of a watchful Shum.

“Romantic Warrior is a talent, he’s a superstar. You saw the gallop on the first of October, you can see something. James didn’t do anything, but he went with him. He loves James, every horse loves James – he can ride, he is a talented jockey, but he (Romantic Warrior) uses himself to tell the jockey ‘I can run for you, have confidence in me!’ you can see something like this, and as a trainer, it’s perfect,” Shum said.

Versatile but generally an on-pacer, especially across last season in Hong Kong, Romantic Warrior will step away from barrier 11 in Saturday’s 16-runner contest under McDonald.

First-up since finishing second in the 2023 Group 1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2400m) on May 28 at Sha Tin, the five-year-old son of Acclamation is aiming to add to his HK$84.365 million in earnings and 10 wins from 14 starts.

A graduate of the 2021 Hong Kong International Sale, Romantic Warrior was sold to owner Peter Lau for HK$4.8 million, and last season came within a head of Hong Kong’s record-setting superstar and three-time Hong Kong Horse of the Year (2020/21, 2021/22 & 2022/23) – Golden Sixty – in the 2023 Group 1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m).

Overall, Romantic Warrior has five wins from six attempts over Sha Tin’s 2000m. He’s twice been crowned Hong Kong Champion Middle-Distance Horse (2021/22 & 2022/23), and he will race anti-clockwise for the first time this weekend.

“Fingers crossed – we’ll do our best. I’ve seen him every day, even in Werribee by WhatsApp – I always watch him. I can guarantee to you guys he’s not 100 percent, he’s around 85 to 90 percent and he will improve – just exactly what James McDonald said after his gallop. He will make a big improvement,” Shum said.

The Group 1-placed West Wind Blows features, as does Soulcombe, who finished a fast-closing fourth in the Group 1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) last time out at Caulfield.

West Wind Blows is trained by Simon and Ed Crisford in Great Britain. He is a five-time winner and has twice prevailed at Group 3 level in France with form also around the likes of Hurricane Lane, Pyledriver, Paddington and Emily Upjohn.

Talented four-year-old Osipenko is also included for trainer Chris Waller following on from his last-start third in the Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) behind Mr Brightside. Gold Trip, Francesco Guardi, Uncle Bryn, Right You Are and more feature.

The Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) will be run at 4.25pm AEDT at Flemington in Melbourne, Australia.

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