HK star Romantic Warrior wins Cox Plate

Champion James McDonald’s faith in Hong Kong superstar Romantic Warrior has been vindicated with the jockey landing a second Cox Plate victory.

After guiding Anamoe to success in last year’s Group 1 weight-for-age championship, McDonald had to call on all his strength to get Romantic Warrior home in the 2040m contest at Moonee Valley on Saturday.

McDonald never lost faith in Romantic Warrior despite the Danny Shum-trained gelding being beaten at his Australian debut in the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) at Flemington on October 7.

Starting the $3.60 Australian bookmakers favourite, Romantic Warrior scored by a nose from Mr Brightside ($9) with Alligator Blood ($6) a short-neck away third.

Romantic Warrior returned a win dividend of $2.80 on the World Pool.

McDonald made trips to Hong Kong to partner Romantic Warrior to win the lead up to the Hong Kong Cup as well as the Hong Kong Cup at the international meeting last year and was also aboard gelding to win the Queen Elizabeth II Cup in April.

“This horse is pretty special to me,” McDonald said.

“I mentioned if he came to a Cox Plate, he’d be a suitable horse. I meant what I said and credit to (owner) Peter (Lau Pak Fai) and Danny.

“It takes a hell of a lot of balls to come out of Hong Kong with all the prizemoney there. It is one of the best racing jurisdictions in the world and they come here and showcase their boy.

“I reckon he’s got more to come, too.

“He’s been bubbling. He showed a significant amount of improvement like I thought he would, and he loves the bloody Valley!”

The first three horses across the line were positioned third, fourth and fifth in the running line behind King Colorado and Zaaki.

McDonald elected to ease three wide racing to the 600m mark with Alligator Blood taking up his spot.

Romantic Warrior wobbled slightly around the turn, as did Zaaki which allowed Mr Brightside to get up on the fence to hit the front 50m out, only to be grabbed on the line.

McDonald said he was comfortable where Romantic Warrior was positioned in the race.

“I knew I was on the right horse, and I kept going, ‘he’s the best horse, he’s the best horse’ so I’d ride him like it,” McDonald said.

“I took a gamble about the 1000 (metres) or 1200. We elected to come back a spot and to the minute right now I believe that was the winning move.”

Shum said it had been a gamble to send Romantic Warrior from Hong Kong to contest Saturday’s race.

Romantic Warrior had to adapt to different training conditions in quarantine at Werribee having not raced since late in May in Hong Kong.

The gelding had an interrupted preparation before arrival in Australia missing an important trial and initially not taking to a change in feed.

But Romantic Warrior was able to overcome that adversity to claim Australia’s best race.

“I don’t know how to tell you how happy I am. I am really happy,” Shum said.

“I want to thank Peter the owner for giving permission to come here. James Mcdonald, all the team, all the Hong Kong fans, my wife Christine, my son Aaron.

“I love you! I love you!”

After Romantic Warrior’s first-up Australian defeat, Shum said he was a little deflated, but knew the gelding would improve with the outing.

“He was not really ready, but he got better day-by-day,” Shum said.

“I was confident he would run a good race, but it is a strong race.

“He overcame all of the challenges and the difficulties. James McDonald gave me a very good report.”

Shum said Romantic Warrior would return to Hong Kong as early as possible to prepare for the Group 1 Hong Kong Cup (2000m) at Sha Tin on December 10.

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