Romantic Warrior clinches epic Hong Kong Gold Cup

Romantic Warrior winning the Hong Kong Gold Cup
James McDonald prevails on Romantic Warrior.

Enhancing status as one of the world’s premier middle-distance gallopers with gripping victory in the HK$13 million Group 1 Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m) after a stirring battle with Voyage Bubble at Sha Tin on Sunday, Romantic Warrior will be given the chance to create more history by chasing a record third Group 1 QEII Cup (2000m) win in April.

The first Hong Kong International Sale graduate to win the Hong Kong Derby (2000m), Romantic Warrior today became only the third horse since the turn of the century after Vengeance Of Rain and Designs on Rome to snare all three of Hong Kong’s top-level 2000m contests – the Hong Kong Gold Cup, QEII Cup and Hong Kong Cup.

Danny Shum’s champion will now bid for a fourth major this season by pressing for an unprecedented third QEII Cup win, having already snared the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley in October and a second Hong Kong Cup in December before adding a sixth G1 success today under James McDonald.

Having partnered Romantic Warrior to a fifth Group 1 win, McDonald was awe-struck by the gelding’s effort to fend off fellow Hong Kong Derby victor Voyage Bubble by a neck after the pair forged clear at the 300m in an electrifying tussle.

Having drawn the outside of 11 runners, McDonald crossed to the rails on Romantic Warrior after only 400m and then was stalked by Purton on Voyage Bubble until the field approached the turn. While Purton fanned into the clear as Sword Point and Money Catcher faded before taking the lead, McDonald angled between runners to challenge.

After a fierce stoush in the straight, Romantic Warrior gradually edged out the Group 1 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) winner in 2:00.31, with Nimble Nimbus a brave third, three lengths away under Andrea Atzeni.

2024 Group 1 Hong Kong Gold Cup Replay – Romantic Warrior

“He (Romantic Warrior) is unreal, he just keeps surprising me – an unbelievable horse. He’s the undisputed champion. He deserves all the accolades he gets. I can’t stress how much of a privilege it is to ride him,” McDonald said, revealing his absolute faith in Romantic Warrior was critical to tactical decision-making.

“He’s the horse that does it all. He makes you look good all the time. His tenacity (and) will to win is phenomenal. I suppose instincts kicked in and (I) went with the flow. When you ride such good horses, you can do what you want to do and even if I made a little mistake during the race, he is probably good enough to overcome it and that was probably my mindset.

“Even though it worked out really, really well, I’ve got that much faith in the horse that you can do things on him that you would normally do.”

McDonald was unflustered when Purton drove Voyage Bubble to the lead.

“I was mindful obviously that (Voyage Bubble) was having his second time at the 2000m and he (Purton) committed early – so it was a really good ride,” McDonald said. “My thinking was that I was going to be stronger late, so I just let him (Romantic Warrior) build through his gears under his own steam and he got there really easily.”

Revealing he was worried pre-race, Shum was jubilant after Romantic Warrior posted his 13th win from 18 starts and boosted his prize money to more than HK$127 million after being purchased by owner Peter Lau at the 2022 Hong Kong International Sale for HK$4.8 million.

“I had a big concern (about the wide draw) because I didn’t think they (rival jockeys) would let him in and push him three or four-deep,” Shum said. “I talked to James this morning. I said ‘Give him his chance and if you jump good, you can push him and put him inside.’ James is very smart, he knows what to do.”

Shum indicated a tilt at the Group 1 Yasuda Kinen (1600m) in Japan in June remains an option for Romantic Warrior.

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