James McDonald celebrates his Cox Plate win aboard Romanic Warrior at The Valley. (Image: Racing Photos)
It is normally a major error in a horse race, but James McDonald said his decision to give up the prized one-one spot on Romantic Warrior was the winning move of the Cox Plate.
McDonald said he had been a little concerned that the Hong Kong star might have just been a little short of his peak going into the race, so he opted to stay out of an early action and wait for a final sprint on the outstanding galloper.
“I was pretty mindful that I needed as much an economical trip in transit because possibly I still felt he was half a run short,” McDonald told RSN927 on Sunday morning.
“Once we lobbed in that position, the speed of the race came out of it a little bit and down the back, instead of holding the one-one, I elected to come back three pairs back to give him an extra breather before having to go.
“I didn’t want to be in a battle too early and I truly believe that was the winning move right there.
“It’s just been a little bit of a catch up the whole way through. I knew he had improved a lot, but it’s hard to win the Cox Plate when you are 100 per cent, let alone not at your best, so we probably got away with one there.”
It was back-to-back Cox Plate wins for McDonald, following Anamoe’s victory last year, but McDonald said the preparations differed vastly as Romantic Warrior was flying into Australia for the first time.
“Anamoe went there last year and it just felt like he was expected to win and lucky enough he did,” McDonald said. “But this one, it’s been a six-week program and I’ve been down working him every time and checking up on him every day, so it’s been a long journey with him.
“I love the horse. He wears his heart on his sleeve. He’s such a good horse. Truly believe we didn’t see the best of him there on Sat. I think he’s just a great horse.”
While Romantic Warrior will return to Hong Kong to prepare for the international race day in December, McDonald has his eyes on more riches during the Flemington carnival after being booked on Saturday night for last year’s winner Gold Trip.
“I’m very excited, it’s a great ride,” he said. “His run in the Cox Plate was phenomenal from back in the field and he’s going to the races as good as he was last year.”
This Saturday, McDonald has leading claims to win the G1 Coolmore Stud Stakes on Shinzo, the G1 Victoria Derby on Riff Rocket and potentially the G1 Empire Rose Stakes if Fangirl backs up from her fine Cox Plate performance.