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Turnbull Stakes-bound Romantic Warrior has to overcome history in Australia

October 4, 2023 at 7:08:47 AM

He might be one of the world’s best middle-distance racehorses, however, Romantic Warrior will have to defy a worrying trend for Hong Kong-trained runners racing in Australia if he is to deliver victory in Saturday’s (7 October) G1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m).

He might be one of the world’s best middle-distance racehorses, however, Romantic Warrior will have to defy a worrying trend for Hong Kong-trained runners racing in Australia if he is to deliver victory in Saturday’s (7 October) G1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m).

Using this weekend’s contest at Flemington as his springboard into the G1 W.S. Cox Plate (2040m) on 28 October, Romantic Warrior will need to become just the second Hong Kong-trained runner to secure Australian victory following 47 previous attempts from 18 individual horses.

Cape Of Good Hope – a Group 1 winner in Great Britain also – boasts Hong Kong’s sole victory in Australia, securing the (now known as the William Reid Stakes) 2005 G1 Australia Stakes (1200m). He also placed in three other top-level contests Down Under.

Super Kid finished second twice, while Lucky Nine fell agonisingly short to a rampaging Buffering in the 2013 G1 Manikato Stakes (1200m). Romantic Warrior’s crusade snaps an eight-year dry spell that a Hong Kong horse has made the journey to Australia, but for trainer Danny Shum and his team, travelling is nothing out of the ordinary.

“There are a lot of challenges, especially to Australia. I’ve travelled to Dubai, England, Singapore, Japan, and it’s not as difficult as Australia. The quarantine, even his schedule changes in Hong Kong before he leaves,” said Shum, who also had to source new feed for Romantic Warrior in Australia.

Alongside Ivan Allan, Shum campaigned horses to Japan, Dubai and more. He also famously won at Royal Ascot with Little Bridge as a fully-fledged trainer in 2012.

“But it makes me and my team tougher; we will solve the problems and we are working very hard to ensure the horse is in the right spot. Ben, Gary, the mafoo – they are all looking after the horse very good, it’s a good team,” he said.

Travelling long distances for a horse based in Hong Kong is a rather unfamiliar process, with most rarely venturing any further from their Sha Tin stables (which is situated on the racecourse) than the occasional 45-minute float trip to Happy Valley for a midweek race.

The training centre at Conghua – situated roughly four hours north – has opened the door for travel experience and it regularly accommodates many of Hong Kong’s elite horses, although much like Golden Sixty, Romantic Warrior has remained housed exclusively at Sha Tin, where he trains and has done most of his racing.

Stepping out of his comfort zone and racing abroad might be a new frontier for Romantic Warrior, but no shortage of international rivals have ventured to Sha Tin to challenge him. The son of Acclamation boasts triumphs over Panthalassa, Danon The Kid, Geoglyph, Jack D’Or, Lei Papale, Order Of Australia, Geraldina and Prognosis. He also beat dual Australian Group 1 winner Dubai Honour last April by two and a half lengths.

Romantic Warrior stretched out for a turf gallop on the course proper at Flemington on Sunday morning (1 October) alongside stablemate Romantic Charm.

“He should improve after his gallop, and he should improve after this weekend. We have a good jockey. That’s it this week for him, he’ll just keep cantering,” Shum said.

James McDonald was in the plate for Sunday’s gallop and will be chasing a fourth win aboard the five-year-old gelding this weekend and third at Group 1 level.

The Turnbull Stakes is worth A$750,000 (approx. HK$3.789 million), with first place taking home A$450,000 (approx. HK$2.236 million). 2022 G1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) winner Gold Trip is entered to run, as is Smokin’ Romans, Lindermann, Francesco Guardi, West Wind Blows, Osipenko, Soulcombe and more.

Victory would see Romantic Warrior join Cape Of Good Hope as a winner in Australia, as well as fellow Hong Kong horses who have campaigned successfully to Japan, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Great Britain, South Korea, Singapore and the United States of America.

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