Romantic Warrior defies challenges to win second LONGINES Hong Kong Cup

Scott Burton

10/12/2023 20:15

Romantic Warrior fends off Luxembourg.
Romantic Warrior fends off Luxembourg.

Romantic Warrior put himself in the pantheon of Hong Kong greats, producing a huge effort to hold off Luxembourg and Hishi Iguazu in a heart-stopping climax to the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (10 December).

Just 43 days after a historic win in Australia's premier weight-for-age race, the W.S. Cox Plate (2040m), Romantic Warrior looked to have burned off his rivals with a burst of acceleration at the 400-metre mark, before answering jockey James McDonald's every call as the race came to the boil deep inside the final 200m.

A jubilant McDonald said: "I think he's the toughest racehorse I've ever sat on and his courage, his will to win, is just something that I've never felt before.

“I've ridden some fantastic racehorses - unbelievable ones - and he's right up there.

“To come back from a Cox Plate, I thought was going to be a ginormous task.

“Even though it was a small margin, I think he's come through it with flying colours.”

Romantic Warrior clinches a fifth Group 1.

Romantic Warrior got the perfect draft into the race just off the pace set by Money Catcher, though McDonald admitted that Ryan Moore kicking Luxembourg into the race with 600 metres to run had meant he needed to draw on his superstar partner's deep reserves of class and courage much earlier than was ideal.

And McDonald was candid in his assessment of the mood in the Romantic Warrior camp ahead of the race.

“It was probably the most nervous I've ever been riding the horse," said McDonald. “Everything's been pretty straightforward but there's always that unknown, coming back from Australia after a really tough run in the Cox Plate (and a) tough run in the Turnbull.

“I'm incredibly proud of him and humbled to be associated with a horse like that.

For him to come here and do what he did in the Hong Kong Cup for a second time after all those hurdles he's overcome, it's one of my proudest moments on him.

Owner Peter Lau has been rewarded for his courage in travelling the horse to Australia and now winning the most important all-age race in Hong Kong for a second time, while trainer Danny Shum emerges from the victory with his reputation further enhanced.

Danny Shum celebrates.
Danny Shum celebrates.

“No matter how he was in trackwork, it's not easy at all, "said Shum. "We're lucky that Romantic Warrior is a real warrior."

“He had a hard race and then two days off and a long flight.

“If you're a human being, when you go overseas you get jet lag, whereas a horse just stays on the box. He's a tough, tough horse and I love him.”

Shum and Lau will now have to decide on future challenges for the five-year-old Acclamation gelding, who took his earnings HK$119.7 million dollars, becoming the third horse in Hong Kong racing history to pass the HK$100 million mark.

Asked whether further foreign campaigns could be part of Romantic Warrior's future, Shum said he would defer to his owner.

“I never told Peter (what to do), he gave me the decision and I followed his plan,” said Shum. "I don't think it was his best performance this time; he can do better, we know that.

“But just think about the long flight and a tough race before quarantine. You can imagine it's really, really hard for a horse. But he can take it, he's too good.”

Luxembourg, Hishi Iguazu and Straight Arron played their full part in pushing Romantic Warrior to the limit, with Aidan O'Brien particularly proud of the runner-up.

O'Brien said of Luxembourg: "He ran a great race. He was coming and coming and just on the wrong nod he [Romantic Warrior] came back up on him.

“But he ran a stormer, Ryan gave him a great ride. He’s brave and he tries very hard. He’s not been over-raced and he is very consistent.”

A quartet of brave horses fought out the finish of the LONGINES Hong Kong Cup. And when going got tough at the death, it was a real warrior that prevailed.

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