Danny Shum and Peter Lau celebrate winning the Cox Plate. Picture: Racing Photos
“This is the most exciting moment, racing moment, in my whole life.”
Peter Lau has won Hong Kong’s biggest middle-distance races with Romantic Warrior over the past two years, but in his eyes, a Cox Plate win surpasses those moments for him.
Lau was integral to Romantic Warrior’s presence in Melbourne this spring, wanting to test his superstar against the world’s best outside his own jurisdiction.
It was an incredibly brave move.
Since Able Friend’s defeat at Royal Ascot in 2015, the connections of Hong Kong’s best horses have been reluctant to travel and the likes of Beauty Generation, Exultant, Golden Sixty and California Spangle have stayed at home for the lucrative riches on offer at Sha Tin.
Yet Lau and trainer Danny Shum have taken on the challenge of travelling abroad head on, highlighting the issues they’ve had to overcome, and finished on top, giving the proud racing city it’s first win on Australian soil since Cape Of Good Hope’s 2005 William Reid Stakes triumph.
It also added to Shum’s record on the world stage, with a Cox Plate now sitting alongside the King’s Stand Stakes trophy that he won at Royal Ascot with Little Bridge in 2012.
While Shum has travelled between Hong Kong and Melbourne over the past month, former jockey Ben So has been his man on the ground, overseeing the preparation of Romantic Warrior and his travelling companion, Romantic Charm.
So has had his own special moments on the racecourse – he handed local trainer Dennis Yip a premiership win in the final race at Happy Valley in 2013 to the roars of an adoring crowd – but even he was still coming to terms with the enormity of what Romantic Warrior had achieved.
“I still can’t believe it,” So said.
“That’s the dream, it’s a dream come true.”
Like the thousands watching on live at The Valley, So didn’t think that dream had come true though, initially believing that Mr Brightside had narrowly outbobbed Romantic Warrior on the inside.
The people that he watched the Cox Plate with only added to that feeling.
“The owners next to us, their horse Mr Brightside, they were yelling, I thought they won,” So recalled.
“We saw the slow motion (replay) and then we found out we won, we yelled, “Wow!”.
“I can’t believe it, even now, I still can’t believe it.
“I’m really, really excited and that’s I think the most amazing day for me.”
Shum was overjoyed post-race, with the victory a massive feather in his cap as a trainer.
“it has big meaning for me as a trainer. It makes me happy. I’m more happy than I can tell you," Shum said.
“I don’t know how to tell you how happy I am. I am really happy.
“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!"