Completing a Danny Shum training masterclass, Romantic Warrior underlined status as Hong Kong`s premier middle-distance performer with a stunning G2 BOCHK Jockey Club Cup (2000m) success under James McDonald at Sha Tin on Sunday (20 November).
Posting his eighth win from nine starts, Romantic Warrior (128lb) brushed aside fitness doubts by defying Tourbillon Diamond (123lb) and Senor Toba (123lb) in an ominous statement of intent ahead of the LONGINES Hong Kong International Races on 11 December.
Setting a class record of 1m 59.23s, Romantic Warrior stamped his superiority over the final 200m 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. Obviously, 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 a fitness setback, Romantic Warrior on Sunday added further gloss to his breathtaking advance from unraced Hong Kong International Sale graduate to BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) and G1 FWD QEII Cup (2000m) in his first season of racing.
His powerhouse resumption on Sunday came after Shum deliberately targeted the 2000m contest first-up instead of challenging Golden Sixty and California Spangle over 1600m.
“It was a really tough to decision whether to run him at 1600m or 2000m. At the end of last season, I planned to run him at 1600m 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 2000m.
“He ran super for his first start at only 80% 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 a quartet to boost his seasonal tally to 44.
The five-time Hong Kong champion jockey slotted his most important win of the day in the G2 BOCHK Private Banking Jockey Club Sprint (1200m) aboard Lucky Sweynesse and also combined with John Size to extend a barnstorming campaign when Running Glory posted his sixth win in 13 starts with a typically professional display in the Class 2 BOC Life Handicap (1800m).
He also prevailed on Manfred Man`s Circuit Mighty in the Class 4 BOCHK Asset Management Handicap (1400m) before sealing the four-timer when David Hayes-trained Oriental Smoke landed the Class 2 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 to victory in the Class 4 BOCHK SME in One Handicap (1200m). The Frenchman will return to Hong Kong next month to contest a star-studded LONGINES International Jockeys` Championship (IJC) and also ride at LONGINES 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 – a Rich Enuff gelding – 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 set a new Class 3 1200m when he sped to victory in the BOCHK Wealth Management Handicap (1200m), clocking 1m 08.11s in downing Golden Express 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 Class 3 BOCHK BOC Pay Handicap (1400m) 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,” 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 of Chris So`s 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 to an easy win in the Class 3 BOCHK Cross-Border Services Handicap (2000m). Ho has seven wins for the campaign.
Hong Kong racing continues on Wednesday night (23 November) at Happy Valley.