Romantic Warrior on cusp of history ahead of Hong Kong Cup defence

Romantic Warrior (middle) hits the line at Sha Tin.

Having returned home to Hong Kong after his heroic win in the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) in Australia last month, Romantic Warrior will chase consecutive wins in the HK$36 million Group 1 Hong Kong Cup (2000m) on December 10 at Sha Tin.

Pouncing to last-gasp victory at Moonee Valley in October, Romantic Warrior created history as Hong Kong’s first Cox Plate triumphant. He makes his first appearance since then at Sunday week’s HK$118 million Hong Kong International Races.

A graduate of the Hong Kong International Sale, a top six finish for Romantic Warrior in the Hong Kong Cup would see the five-year-old by Acclamation become Hong Kong’s third horse to reach HK$100 million in prize money after only Golden Sixty (HK$147.93 million) and Beauty Generation (HK$106.23 million).

Lengthening under jockey James McDonald this morning (Tuesday, November 28) at Sha Tin, Romantic Warrior finished first in a turf trial over the mile, with stablemate Helene Feeling crossing the line second, while Golden Sixty was third.

Both trainer Danny Shum and McDonald were satisfied with Romantic Warrior’s effort.

“He needed the trial because he’s been quarantined. He did some work but he needed that. It was a very positive report from James McDonald – he said that he trialled good but that he did need it.

“He’ll have one or two more turf gallops now to enhance his condition,” Shum said.

Romantic Warrior is an 11-time winner from 16 starts. He is a four-time Group 1 winner in Hong Kong and Australia. He also claimed 2022’s Hong Kong Derby (2000m) and Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m).

“I’m happy with him – he’s always good, easy to train and he’s a happy horse. He does everything right,” Shum said.

The locally rated 130-rater faces no shortage of opposition. The best of Hong Kong line-up against Romantic Warrior, led by the Group 2-winning Straight Arron, while five international runners feature from Japan, Ireland and France.

Prognosis, Rousham Park and Hishi Iguazu are included for Japan, while Aidan O’Brien fields Luxembourg. Patrice Cottier saddles the Group 1-placed Horizon Dore for France.

Looking ahead to Wednesday night’s eight-race fixture at Happy Valley, jockey Jerry Chau has a formidable hand with seven rides, including the Shum-trained Exuberant.

Chau steps away from barrier 11 of 12 aboard Exuberant in tomorrow night’s feature.

“I don’t mind what he’s drawn. I think he’s better with an outside draw because he needs to have more room to let him turn up his speed,” Chau said.

Chau will aim to guide the impressive Chill Chibi to his fourth straight win. The Wrote gelding is a three-time victor from four starts in Hong Kong and boasts a rating of 78.

“Last time he was pretty impressive. He couldn’t catch up in the early stages with a fast pace but he began to pick up in the middle stage and in the straight he showed his turn of foot,” Chau said.

The four-year-old is eligible for the 2024 Four-Year-Old Classic Series for Shum, should his progression maintain.

Chau also rides Eight Trigrams, Kasa Papa, Mighty Star, Easy Snip and Son Pak Fu.

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