Jockey James McDonald and trainer Danny Shum celebrate Romantic Warrior's Cox Plate win. (Image: Racing Photos)
Hong Kong champion Romantic Warrior has joined the rollcall of superstar Cox Plate winners with his narrow victory over Mr Brightside in a thrilling finish with Alligator Blood close-up third.
Both Romantic Warrior’s jockey James McDonald and his trainer Danny Shum were overcome with emotion after the win.
McDonald confessed he thought Romantic Warrior had been beaten by Mr Brightside on his inside when they hit the line. The judge though found a nose margin for him and a short neck away third was Alligator Blood.
“I can’t believe I’ve won the Cox Plate. This means so much to be but I thought I got beaten,” McDonald said.
The victory gave the champion jockey his second win in the race after winning on Anamoe in 2022.
McDonald said a tactical move on his behalf at the 1200 metres mark was the winning move, taking his horse back a spot behind Alligator Blood.
“I took a gamble at the 1200m and came back a horse and let Alligator Blood settle a length in front of me. I thought I could beat him and that’s how it turned out,” McDonald said.
McDonald said he had shown a lot of faith in Romantic Warrior and he was rewarded.
“He’s been working so well at The Valley and I’ve been telling everyone that’s the case," he said.
“It takes a lot to take a horse out of Hong Kong and he’s showcased his talent to the world now. He loves The Valley.
“I showed a lot of faith in him as I was comfortable. I knew I was on the right horse. I was on the best horse.
“I showed belief. This horse is pretty special to me. I mentioned if he came to a Cox Plate he’d be a suitable horse and I meant what I said. Credit to Peter (Lau) and Danny (Shum) as it takes a hell of a lot of balls to come out of Hong Kong with all the prize money. It is one of the best racing jurisdictions in the world and they come here and showcase their boy."
Shum said the win meant so much to him.
“This has a big meaning for me. I couldn’t be happier.”
Shum said he had lost a little bit of confidence after Romantic Warrior finished fourth in the Turnbull Stakes.
“I was confident he would run a good race. He overcame all of the challenges and the difficulties. James McDonald gave me a very good report," Shum said.
Co-trainer of Mr Brightside Ben Hayes said it was a shattering result as they thought they had won.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the horse and he showed he could run 2000 metres. Craig (Williams) gave him a ten out of ten ride.”
Craig Williams said Mr Brightside ran a tremendous race.
“It’s a shame he didn’t get the photo today. The (Hayes) boys have done a great job and they were just that confident that he’d bounce back off the other day. It means a lot to us, but we just didn’t get it done today,” Williams said.
Tim Clark said he thought Alligator Blood had the race won on the turn and he was brave in defeat.