Hong Kong News

Romantic Warrior’s triumphant Jockey Club Cup return

Completing a Danny Shum training masterclass, Romantic Warrior (Acclamation) underlined his status as Hong Kong’s premier middle-distance performer with a stunning Jockey Club Cup (Gr 2, 2000m) success under James McDonald at Sha Tin yesterday.

Posting his eighth win from nine starts, Romantic Warrior brushed aside fitness doubts by defying Tourbillon Diamond (Olympic Glory) and Senor Toba (Toronado) in an ominous statement of intent ahead of the Hong Kong International Races on December 11.

Setting a class record of 1m 59.23s, Romantic Warrior stamped his superiority over the final 200 metres despite not having raced for 211 days as McDonald deflected attention to Shum and fellow jockey Karis Teetan, who remains sidelined with health issues.

“First of all, I would just like to send my well wishes to Karis. He would [normally] be on this horse and it’s a pleasure to be warming the seat for him for when he gets back – and I’m sure he’ll be back very shortly,” McDonald said.

“Phenomenal start to Romantic Warrior’s five-year-old season and he can only improve off that. I thought he did enough in the end – and probably had enough in the end – but he’s a great horse and he knows where that winning post is.”

Overcoming a delayed start to the season because of a fitness setback, Romantic Warrior added further gloss to his breathtaking advance from unraced Hong Kong International Sale graduate to Hong Kong Derby (Listed, 2000m) and QEII Cup (Gr 1, 2000m) winner in his first season of racing.

His powerhouse resumption came after Shum deliberately targeted the 2000-metre contest first-up instead of challenging Golden Sixty (Medaglia D’Oro) and California Spangle (Starspangledbanner) over 1600 metres.

“It was a really tough decision whether to run him at 1600 metres or 2000 metres. At the end of last season, I planned to run him at 1600 metres for his first race but he twisted his right foreleg and he got a splint, so he had to be off for three weeks until he had totally recovered,” Shum said.

“It is very hard to fight with Golden Sixty and California Spangle, so I talked to the owner about changing the plan and running at 2000 metres.

“He ran super for his first start at only 80 per cent fit. James told me that he will improve a lot after this run so I’m quite confident he will run a good race [in December].

Despite the influx of a band of internationally acclaimed riders, Zac Purton dominated the meeting with four winners to boost his seasonal tally to 44.

The five-time Hong Kong champion jockey slotted his most important win of the day in the Jockey Club Sprint (Gr 2, 1200m) aboard Lucky Sweynesse (Sweynesse) and also combined with John Size to extend a barnstorming campaign when Running Glory (Kermadec) posted his sixth win in 13 starts with a typically professional display in the BOC Life Handicap (1800m).

He also prevailed on Manfred Man’s Circuit Mighty (El Roca) in the BOCHK Asset Management Handicap (1400m) before sealing the four-timer when the David Hayes-trained Oriental Smoke (Artie Schiller) landed the BOC Credit Card Handicap (1200m).

James McDonald (two wins), Mickael Barzalona and Hugh Bowman all figured successfully as Danny Shum and Manfred Man shared the major training spoils with doubles.

Barzalona made the most of a flying visit to Hong Kong, partnering Ricky Yiu’s impressive debutant Mighty Stride (Rich Enuff) to victory in the BOCHK SME in One Handicap (1200m). The Frenchman will return to Hong Kong next month to contest a star-studded International Jockeys’ Championship (IJC) and also ride at the Hong Kong International Races.

“I arrived this morning, fly back tonight, just came in for the day and I’m going to come back for the IJC and International Day in December,” Barzalona said. “It’s always a privilege to ride here and to get that winner is even better.”

Yiu was impressed with Mighty Stride and Barzalona.

“His last two trials in Conghua were good, eye-catching. He will progress as he gets more mature and I wouldn’t be surprised if he can win over a mile,” Yiu said. “I’ve always liked this jockey, he can ride light and it was good to be able to get him to ride for me.”

Danny Shum’s Victor The Winner (Toronado) set a new Class 3 1200-metre record when he sped to victory in the BOCHK Wealth Management Handicap (1200m), clocking 1m 08.11s in downing Golden Express (Not A Single Doubt) under McDonald.

“Great performance, he feels a proper horse and I think we’ll hear a lot of him. That was awesome. I’m rapt,” McDonald said.

Hugh Bowman marked his return to Hong Kong by winning the concluding BOCHK BOC Pay Handicap (1400m) aboard Good Buddy (Showcasing) for David Hall.

“It was great to ride a winner. Working him here on Thursday morning, he gave me an exceptional feel and he was very well placed with a good draw [1],” Bowman said. “He’s been knocking on the door and everything went his way today.

“It’s great to get on the board with a winner. I was a bit unlucky early on with one but that’s racing. I’d like to think I’ll get a bit more rhythm with a few more rides.”

Peter Ho continued his strong start to the season when Derek Leung piloted Woodfire Bro (Echoes Of Heaven) to an easy win in the BOCHK Cross-Border Services Handicap (2000m). Ho has seven wins for the campaign.