James McDonald lifts Romantic Warrior over the line in the 2023 Hong Kong Cup
When Romantic Warrior narrowly outlasted local star Mr Brightside to win the 2023 Ladbrokes Cox Plate, he became the first ever Hong Kong trained horse to win our greatest Weight For Age race.
Well, more history was made on Sunday 10 December at Sha Tin, when the star son of Acclamation was able to capture his second consecutive Hong Kong Cup and become the first horse to complete the Ladbrokes Cox Plate – Hong Kong Cup double.
It was well documented that Romantic Warrior faced many obstacles when coming to Melbourne back in the Spring. Through quarantine he went off his feed, and it showed in his sub-par Australian debut when he could only manage 4th in the Turnbull Stakes at Flemington – clearly underdone. Given that, the training performance by his jovial trainer Danny Shum to win two of the world’s best 2000-metre races thereafter has been nothing short of remarkable.
Like the Cox Plate, Romantic Warrior drew barrier 7 in the $7 million AUD Hong Kong Cup – strangely, the most successful barrier in the 37 runnings of their biggest international race. As he so often does, champion jockey James McDonald found a beautiful position in running, perched just two lengths behind the leader Money Catcher, one off the fence. The locally trained danger Straight Arron locked away on his inside, with the equally rated UK Group 1 winner Luxembourg behind him, hard ridden.
The Warrior trucked into the straight and took the lead as if a repeat performance of the 2022 demolition was in store, but began to paddle noticeably on tired legs at the 150-metre mark as the cavalry made their charge. A nervous final 50 metres proceeded, but McDonald desperately willed his mount over the line to great effect, defeating the world class raider Luxembourg who bounced off the canvas to run second by a nose, with Japan’s Hishi Iguazu in 3rd, previously 2nd in 2021.
Still not fully at his best, the nature of the victory was more brave than it was brilliant, but like the Ladbrokes Cox Plate, that is what we have come to expect from Hong Kong champion Romantic Warrior. A monumental occasion for not only Hong Kong racing, but also for Australia.
Like Better Loosen Up, So You Think, Lys Gracieux and State Of Rest, Romantic Warrior joined an elite club by winning the Ladbrokes Cox Plate and then triumphing on the world stage with Group 1 success abroad. The form for Australia’s Best Race had been validated once again, and now we look forward to seeing what Romantic Warrior can do in 2024, with Dubai and Japan well in the mix.
On what was the greatest Hong Kong International Races meeting for the local brigade in the modern era, the nation’s other two megastars were also victorious to the roars of the 65,000 large crowd. Lucky Sweynesse made amends for his luckless defeat in the Hong Kong Sprint in 2022, while Hong Kong’s banner horse Golden Sixty stunned his rivals with a scintillating win in the Hong Kong Mile – a record equaling third victory in the race.
Moonee Valley Racing Club CEO Michael Browell summarised the epic day on Twitter;
“Privileged to be @HKJC_Racing HKIR to see three great Hong Kong champions victorious.
Such a special effort from our 2023 @ladbrokescomau @CoxPlate hero Romantic Warrior to return home and win the Hong Kong Cup.
Congratulations to Peter Lau, Danny Shum and @mcacajamez”