James McDonald’s confidence in Romantic Warrior rising ahead of Cox Plate

James McDonald’s confidence in Romantic Warrior ahead of this Saturday’s $5 million Cox Plate is increasing with every track gallop.

The champion jockey was at Moonee Valley on Monday morning to partner the Hong Kong star in a 1200-metre workout with Danny Shum stablemate Romantic Charm, six days out from the 2040-metre Group 1.

It was Romantic Warrior’s second trip to The Valley, following a workout under McDonald on October 15, while the star hoop also rode the gelding in a gallop at Flemington six days out from the Turnbull Stakes, in which he finished fourth, beaten just under four lengths.

McDonald said the improvement from that first Flemington workout, on October 1, to Cox Plate week had been significant.

“All I can compare him off is the Flemington workout where he blew up basically in the piece of work and he came off the track like he had a decent piece of work,” McDonald said.

“Now he’s doing the same piece of work and marching off the track.

“He’s definitely going much better than he was going into the Turnbull.”

The 2000m Turnbull Stakes was Romantic Warrior’s first run anti-clockwise and that is the least of McDonald’s concerns heading into the 2040m Cox Plate.

“It actually felt like he’s been here 100 times,” McDonald said.

“The way he gets around this track, it’s incredible. But he is that sort of horse, he adapts to certain situations pretty good.

“He’s just so well-balanced around this bend and he bounces off it.”

Romantic Warrior sat off Romantic Charm for the majority of Monday morning’s gallop before ramping things up from the 600m and scooted home the last 400m in 23.06 seconds.

“He was there for a good look around, accelerated off the bend and had a good puff,” McDonald said.

“That’s what we were trying to get out of it, just familiarise him with the track again and get a good bit of exercise gallop in terms of his wind and see how he pulls up.

“I think he’s on song, I really do.”

Romantic Warrior is the pre-draw favourite for the Cox Plate with online bookmakers, the field for which will be finalised on Tuesday morning after the traditional Breakfast With The Best trackwork session at The Valley.

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