'Warrior' Comes Out To Play In the Yasuda Kinen

Romantic Warrior | Horsephotos/Tomoya Moriuchi

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A plan was hatched by owner Peter Lau and trainer Danny Shum as early as last June to set their multiple champion Romantic Warrior (Ire) (Acclamation {GB}) on a course towards the G1 W S Cox Plate in Melbourne some four months later. Having departed Hong Kong in mid-September, the gelding endured a sub-optimal period in quarantine at Werribee until the Australian government approved the shipment of his regular feed from Hong Kong to Victoria and Romantic Warrior was an underdone fourth in the G1 Turnbull S. at Caulfield Oct. 7.

“I always targeted the Cox Plate, so we needed a lead-up race for him to see how he can handle the left turn. I cannot say I'm happy but I'm not disappointed,” Shum told the HKJC's Declan Schuster at the time.

If the Turnbull was meant to bring out the best in Romantic Warrior, it was mission accomplished at Australia's 'Valley'–Moonee Valley–on Oct. 28, as he called on his considerable battling qualities to nose out the classy Mr Brightside (NZ) (Bullbars {Aus}) and Alligator Blood (Aus) (All Too Hard {Aus}), becoming Hong Kong's first winner of Australia's weight-for-age championship.

“It has big meaning for me as a trainer,” Shum told HKJC's Leo Schlink. “It makes me happy. I'm more happy than I can tell you. I was confident he would run a good race. It is a strong race. He overcame all of the challenges and the difficulties.”

Romantic Warrior faced a race against time if he was to defend his title in the G1 Longines Hong Kong Cup six weeks later. Having cleared quarantine in the nick of time, he had to outbattle a tough customer in the form of Ballydoyle's Luxembourg (GB) (Camelot {GB}) and had to dig deep again to hold off fellow Hong Kong Derby hero Voyage Bubble (Aus) (Deep Field {Aus}) to win the G1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup in February.

The Irish-bred was to remain in Hong Kong in an attempt to become the first three-time winner of the G1 FWD QE II Cup Apr. 28, but Mother Nature was to have a say, as week-long rains rendered the ground yielding on the day. Forced to sit a tough trip from an awkward draw and clearly fighting the underfoot conditions, he yet again willed himself to win, outgaming Japan's Prognosis (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) in the final strides.

In the interim, a trip to the Land of the Rising Sun for the G1 Yasuda Kinen–a 'Win and You're In' qualifier for the GI Breeders' Cup Mile–had been discussed, but given the nature of his QE II success, it would have come as no surprise had connections called time on a Horse of the Year campaign. Instead, he was confirmed for the Japan's premier spring mile on May 10 and was poised to complete a season for the ages in front of 44,577 racegoers on an intermittently rainy Sunday at the Fuchu course in Tokyo.

Shum No Stranger To Tokyo

While Danny Shum was saddling his first Yasuda Kinen starter, it was not his first trip over for the race. In 2000, Shum was the exercise rider for the legendary Ivan Allan-trained Fairy King Prawn (Aus) (Danehill), who went on to become the first Hong Kong winner on foreign soil and closed the season with a defeat of the wondermare Sunline (NZ) (Desert Sun {GB}) in a memorable renewal of the Hong Kong Mile.

As he was heading into the Cox Plate, Shum expressed confidence in Romantic Warrior over the course of the last 10 days, despite dropping back to 1600 metres for the first time since defeating this year's G1 Al Quoz Sprint winner California Spangle (Ire) (Starspangledbanner {Aus}) in the Hong Kong Classic Mile in 2022. Shum was also comfortable that his charge would handle the rise in the Tokyo straight which favours a staying-type.

Romantic Warrior sweated up profusely in the preliminaries, but the 13-5 favourite jumped right into the bridle from barrier seven for James McDonald and was in the thick of it early on before settling in about fifth position, as rough chances Dobune (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn} x Premier Steps {Ire}) and Win Carnelian (Jpn) (Screen Hero {Jpn}) eyeballed each other up front.

Going strongly, but nicely settled on the turn, Romantic Warrior followed the move of Win Carnelian into the long Tokyo straight, but when that rival began to paddle about 400 metres from home, McDonald went for Romantic Warrior in earnest and asked his mount to take a gap and muscle his way through between Win Carnelian and Godolphin's G1 Victoria Mile runner-up Fierce Pride (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}). Namur (Jpn) (Harbinger {GB}), third to Golden Sixty (Aus) in the G1 Hong Kong Mile, runner-up in this year's G1 Dubai Turf and a slow-starting eighth in the Victoria Mile, began to find her best stride and Soul Rush (Jpn) (Rulership {Jpn})–just beaten by Namur in the G1 Mile Championship and fourth at Sha Tin in December–was flashing home, but Romantic Warrior found a late kick and proved best while covering his final 600 metres in a sharp :33.4.

 

 

 

He is the first Hong Kong-based winner of the Yasuda Kinen since Bullish Luck (Royal Academy) in 2006 and the first Hong Kong horse to succeed in Japanese Group 1 company since Aerovelocity (NZ) (Pins {Aus}) took out the 2015 Takamatsunomiya Kinen for Paul O'Sullivan and Zac Purton.

“I had been working on finding the right horse to bring here to race in Japan, so it was really exciting and a happy moment,” said the winning owner. “I have had connections with Japan both in business and also within the racing circle, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to race here this time. The track here is wide and very fair and beautiful. I heard from my friends in Hong Kong about the big fan base in Japan, but it was even more than I expected.”

McDonald has now won eight times from nine rides aboard Romantic Warrior, whose career earnings now top US$19 million, making him the second-richest racehorse in history.

“Once he hit the front with 200 metres to run, it was going to have to be a good horse to go past him because there's not many who can pass him when he's in full flight with a furlong to go,” said the Sydney-based hoop, riding in Japan for the first time in 10 years. “He's a proven champion…and now has come to Japan and won a mile race, a little bit shorter than his best distance. He always rises to the occasion, and that's the beauty of this horse–he's got the heart of a lion and tremendous ability.

“I'm just extremely proud, very honored to be traveling with such a good horse and to showcase him to such passionate racing fans,” the rider continued. “The race went perfectly as planned. We had a plan of being in the first half of the field, and he enabled us to sit in a very comfortable position throughout. Before the start, he was a bit fresh and above himself, so I felt that he was definitely on the job, and as always, he was there when I asked him for a supreme effort.”

Added Shum: “James McDonald is world-class and he gave him a great ride. He loves Romantic Warrior and Romantic Warrior loves him a lot. He always tries his best for James. I wasn't too nervous because I was confident in my horse, my team and my jockey.”

Romantic Warrior was also given an entry for the G1 Takarazuka Kinen (2200m) in three weeks' time, but Shum said his pupil is due for a spell with an eye on the 2024-2025 season.

Pedigree Notes:

Romantic Warrior, a 300,000gns Tattersalls October grad and the most successful horse to emerge from the Hong Kong International Sale when selling for HK$4.8 million (£444,729/US$618,437), is one of three winners from four to the races for his dam, a daughter of the English listed-winning and Group 3-placed, G2 Prix Jean Romanet and GI E. P. Taylor S. winner Folk Opera, who was purchased by Blandford Bloodstock carrying to Exceed and Excel (Aus) for €82,000 at the 2016 Goffs November Sale. The in-utero purchase, named Melodic Charm (Ire), was sold for 85,000gns at the 2018 Tattersalls October Sale and was a two-time winner at the races for Saeed Manana and James Tate before clearly benefitting from the success of Romantic Warrior when selling to the China Horse Club for 270,000gns in foal to Dark Angel (Ire) at the 2022 Tattersalls December Mares Sale.

Folk Melody is also the dam of the 4-year-gelding Operation Gimcrack (Ire) (Showcasing {GB}) and a 2-year-old colt by the same stallion that was bought back for 110,000gns at last year's Tattersalls October Sale and again for €130,000 at last month's Arqana May Breeze-Up. Folk Star (GB) (Le Havre {Ire}), a half-sister to Folk Melody, was knocked down to Kildaragh Stud for 37,000gns at the 2023 Tattersalls December Sale. Folk Melody is additionally the dam a yearling colt by New Bay (GB).

Sunday, Tokyo, Japan
YASUDA KINEN-G1, ¥347,400,000, Tokyo, 6-2, 3yo/up, 1600mT, 1:32.30, gd.
1–ROMANTIC WARRIOR (IRE), 128, g, 6, by Acclamation (GB)
1st Dam: Folk Melody (Ire), by Street Cry (Ire)
2nd Dam: Folk Opera (Ire), by Singspiel (Ire)
3rd Dam: Skiphall (GB), by Halling
(300,000gns Ylg '19 TATOCT; HK$4,800,000 HRA '21 HKJUN). O-Peter Lau Pak Fai; B-Corduff Stud & T J Rooney; T-Danny Shum Chap Shing; J-James McDonald; ¥183,780,000. Lifetime Record: 2x Ch. Middle Distance Horse, Ch. 4yo, MG1SW-HK, G1SW-Aus, 20-15-3-0, $19,232,441. Werk Nick Rating: C+. Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree or the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree.
2–Namur (Jpn), 123, m, 5, Harbinger (GB)–Sambre et Meuse (Jpn), by Daiwa Major (Jpn). O-Carrot Farm; B-Northern Farm; T-Tomokazu Takano; J-Yutaka Take; ¥73,080,000.
3–Soul Rush (Jpn), 128, h, 6, Rulership (Jpn)–Broad Street (Jpn), by Agnes Tachyon (Jpn). O-Tatsue Ishikawa; B-Shimokobe Farm; T-Yasutoshi Ikee; J-Joao Moreira; ¥45,540,000.
Margins: HF, NO, 1. Odds: 2.60, 9.00, 3.00.
Also Ran: Gaia Force (Jpn), Serifos (Jpn), Geoglyph (Jpn), Fierce Pride (Jpn), Elton Barows (Jpn), Stella Veloce (Jpn), Air Lolonois (Jpn), Red Mon Reve (Jpn), Corepetiteur (Jpn), Parallel Vision (Jpn), Win Carnelian (Jpn), Danon Scorpion (Jpn), Catedral (Jpn), Voyage Bubble (Aus), Dobune (Jpn). Click for the JRA chart.

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