Shum wary of Voyage Bubble, Soul Rush & Namur in Yasuda Kinen

Romantic Warrior trains on the dirt for the Yasuda Kinen on May 30, 2024 at Tokyo Racecourse in Tokyo, Japan. Photo By: Alex Evers/HKJC

Danny Shum has identified Voyage Bubble and Japanese pair Soul Rush and Namur as the biggest obstacles to Romantic Warrior’s quest for an eighth Group 1 triumph as the Hong Kong champion prepares for the Group 1 Yasuda Kinen (1600m) at Tokyo Racecourse on Sunday (2 June).

Outlining hopes for an inside gate five or six at Friday’s (31 May) barrier draw, Shum believes the 18-horse field contains three obvious threats to Romantic Warrior – among a spread of even talent.

“I think Soul Rush is one of the main dangers and Namur as well. Some horses are good but not really outstanding. I’ve watched their races and I think we have a chance,” Shum said.

“I think Voyage Bubble and Soul Rush are the two main dangers.”

Voyage Bubble came within a neck of defeating Romantic Warrior in the Group 1 Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m) at Sha Tin on 25 February after showcasing his talent with victory in the Group 1 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) on 21 January.

Namur and Soul Rush finished third and fourth, respectively, behind Golden Sixty and Voyage Bubble in the Group 1 Hong Kong Mile (1600m) on 10 December at Sha Tin.

Shum, who has guided Romantic Warrior to four successive Group 1 successes this campaign – the Cox Plate (2040m), Hong Kong Cup (2000m), Hong Kong Gold Cup and FWD QEII Cup (2000m) – said the six-year-old is “good and healthy” after he cantered on the dirt at Tokyo Racecourse today with stablemate Romantic Charm.

Shum said he would leave race tactics to jockey James McDonald.

“We don’t have any race plans because we don’t know the draw yet. James McDonald is the world-class No. 1. He has a lot of experience, so I’m confident he can handle it.”

Having watched Romantic Warrior successfully cope with the undulating contours of Moonee Valley, where he won the W.S. Cox Plate in October, and Happy Valley, where he launched his stunning career with two consecutive wins under Joao Moreira in 2021, Shum has few concerns at Tokyo Racecourse’s famed dips and rises.

“Romantic Warrior had his first start at Happy Valley, which is also uphill. He’s very fit and he doesn’t need fast work anymore. Just keep him happy, keep him healthy,” Shum said before explaining how his experience in travelling horses to Japan for his mentor Ivan Allan was proving invaluable.

“It’s a big advantage (having previous experience of Tokyo racecourse). Not only Fairy King Prawn but also Oriental Express, Indigenous for the Japan Cup. My previous boss Ivan Allan gave me a big opportunity to come here, so of course it’s a bit of an edge for me.”

Shum is not worried by either the drop in distance from 2000m to 1600m for the Yasuda Kinen, nor questions over race tempo.

“I think if the pace is fast – I do hope the pace is fast – Romantic Warrior has natural speed. He can sit wherever he’s comfortable – and he’s got an engine, so he can hit the line strong,” Shum said.

“Every time they go a fast pace in Japan, (but) if they go a slow pace he can stay in the right position. I’ll leave it to James, he knows the horse and studies the field.

“Saturday and Sunday there is a little bit of rain (forecast), but hopefully not too bad. James has seven rides on Sunday, so he’ll have more idea on the track.”

Voyage Bubble cruised through his final piece of fast work at Tokyo Racecourse this morning (Thursday, 30 May) ahead of trainer Ricky Yiu’s arrival.

Ridden by Yan Kin Lau, the 2023 Hong Kong Derby (2000m) winner strode freely from the 1600m in a familiarisation gallop.

“I was very happy with him, he handled the uphill and downhill very well,” Lau said.

“He’s a smart horse, he changed legs when he needed to and he felt good. It was not a fast gallop, just normal for what he does. Everything is good with him,”

Voyage Bubble and Romantic Warrior are attempting to deliver Hong Kong’s third Yasuda Kinen success after the victories of Bullish Luck for Tony Cruz and Brett Prebble in 2006 and Fairy King Prawn in 2000 for Ivan Allan and Robbie Fradd.

The Group 1 Yasuda Kinen (1600m) will be run at Tokyo Racecourse on Sunday (2 June) at 2.40pm (HKT).

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