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Romantic Warrior Defeats Voyage Bubble in Hong Kong

Romantic Warrior enhanced his status as one of the world’s premier middle-distance horses with a gripping victory in the Hong Kong Gold Cup (G1) over Voyage Bubble at Sha Tin Racecourse Feb. 25. The son of Acclamation  will now be given the chance to create more history by chasing a record third Queen Elizabeth II Cup (G1) win in April.

The first Hong Kong International Sale graduate to win the Hong Kong Derby, Romantic Warrior becomes only the third horse since the turn of the century after Vengeance Of Rain and Designs On Rome to snare all three of Hong Kong’s top-level 2,000-meter contests—the Hong Kong Gold Cup, QEII Cup, and Hong Kong Cup (G1).

Danny Shum’s champion will now bid for a fourth major this season by pressing for an unprecedented third QEII Cup win, having already snared the Cox Plate (G1) at Moonee Valley in October and a second Hong Kong Cup in December, before adding a sixth group 1 success Sunday under James McDonald.

Having partnered Romantic Warrior to a fifth group 1 win, McDonald was awestruck by the gelding’s effort to fend off fellow Hong Kong Derby victor Voyage Bubble by a neck, after the pair forged clear at the 300-meter mark in an electrifying tussle.

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Having drawn outside the 11 runners, McDonald crossed to the rails on Romantic Warrior after only 400 meters and then was stalked by Zac Purton on Voyage Bubble until the field approached the turn. While Purton fanned into the clear as Sword Point and Money Catcher faded before taking the lead, McDonald angled between runners to challenge.

After a fierce stoush in the straight, Romantic Warrior gradually edged out the Stewards’ Cup (G1) winner in 2:00.31, with Nimble Nimbus a brave third, three lengths away under Andrea Atzeni.

“(Romantic Warrior) is unreal, he just keeps surprising me—an unbelievable horse. He’s the undisputed champion. He deserves all the accolades he gets. I can’t stress how much of a privilege it is to ride him,” McDonald said, revealing his absolute faith in Romantic Warrior was critical to tactical decision-making.

“He’s the horse that does it all. He makes you look good all the time. His tenacity (and) will to win is phenomenal. I suppose instincts kicked in and (I) went with the flow. When you ride such good horses, you can do what you want to do and even if I made a little mistake during the race, he is probably good enough to overcome it and that was probably my mindset.

Revealing he was worried pre-race, Shum was jubilant after Romantic Warrior posted his 13th win from 18 starts and boosted his prize money to more than HK$127 million after being purchased by owner Peter Lau at the 2022 Hong Kong International Sale for HK$4.8 million.

“I had a big concern (about the wide draw) because I didn’t think (rival jockeys) would let him in and push him three or four-deep,” Shum said. “I talked to James this morning. I said ‘Give him his chance and if you jump good, you can push him and put him inside.’ James is very smart, he knows what to do.”

Shum indicated a tilt at the Yasuda Kinen (G1) in Japan in June remains an option for Romantic Warrior.

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