Zac Purton upbeat over Voyage Bubble’s Yasuda Kinen chances

Voyage Bubble wins the Group 1 Stewards’ Cup.

Zac Purton believes Voyage Bubble’s uncomplicated racing manners will partially offset the challenge of tackling Romantic Warrior – and the cream of Japan’s milers – in the Group 1 Yasuda Kinen (1600m) at Tokyo Racecourse on Sunday (2 June).

Purton will travel to Tokyo on Thursday (30 May) to prepare for Sunday’s feature, which has drawn 18 high-class entries including a string of Japanese gallopers who have previously raced in Hong Kong, including Soul Rush, Namur, Elton Barows, Serifos and Geoglyph.

Purton has twice ridden in the Yasuda Kinen previously, finishing sixth on Tony Cruz-trained Beauty Only in 2017 and ninth aboard Paul O’Sullivan’s Fellowship in 2010.

With Romantic Warrior likely to vie for race favouritism, Purton believes Voyage Bubble can factor strongly after his last-start third under James McDonald in the Group 1 Champions Mile (1600m) at Sha Tin on 28 April – when Elton Barows finished eighth behind Purton’s mount, Beauty Eternal.

“His (Voyage Bubble’s) trial was good. 1000m was a bit sharp for him but he showed good speed as he does, went through the gears nicely and we let him gallop on through the line with the mile race in mind. He pulled up well,” Purton said of the gelding’s 1000m Sha Tin trial win on 16 May.

“I’ve seen the (Tokyo trackwork) videos and he looks like he’s settled in well. He’s a pretty no-nonsense horse and he takes everything in his stride. I think it’s a suitable race for him and hopefully the track is OK. You need a lot of ability and it’s never easy to win in Japan – they’re very good at defending their own home turf.

“I think he’s got a good style where he can race on-speed. He likes fast run races and we’re not guaranteed to get that, but if that’s the case he can clearly handle that. He can run beyond a mile – he’s been good up to 2000m – so the uphill straight and testing conditions shouldn’t be a hindrance for him.

“He does a lot of things right and it’s not a vintage year. There’s no standout horse there at the moment, so it’s a good year to roll the dice and see how we go. Bring it on, let’s see what we get.”

While Purton has the utmost respect for Romantic Warrior, he said: “Romantic Warrior has had a fairly tough season. He’s gone down to Australia and had to peak down there, then he’s come back to Hong Kong and had to peak a couple of times and he struck the wet track last time when he had to dig deep and lift himself off the canvas to win.

“He’s jumped back on a plane and gone again so it’s a big ask for any horse to do that. He might be a little bit vulnerable at this stage in the season and hopefully we can capitalise on that if that’s the case.”

Romantic Warrior’s trainer Danny Shum said the seven-time Group 1 winner is thriving in Japan.

“He’s pretty good, he’s healthy, he’s happy and enjoying the environment,” Shum said.

“It was the decision of the owner to come to Japan – he has been connected to Japan business-wise for a long time and wanted to bring his horse here – the Yasuda Kinen was the best option.

“The Tokyo course is beautiful, it’s fantastic. I don’t see any problem for him running left-handed because he won in the Cox Plate (2040m) in Australia, so I’m confident that he can handle the track.

“The strong point of the horse is that the world’s champion jockey James McDonald will be on board. He loves the horse and the horse loves him.

“All the Japanese horses are very good, they conquer everywhere, in Dubai and in Hong Kong, so I was very happy that the JRA (Japan Racing Association) gave us the invitation to bring Romantic Warrior here.”

Hong Kong horses have twice previously won the Yasuda Kinen – 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 at 3.40pm (2.40pm, Hong Kong time).

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