Timely break rejuvenates Romantic Warrior
Bidding to become the first horse in two decades to win successive HK$25 million G1 FWD QEII Cups (2000m), Romantic Warrior limbered up for his title defense on Sunday with an effortless trial victory at Sha Tin on April 11.
Partnered by Zac Purton, Romantic Warrior jumped cleanly from barrier 10 in the 1600m grass trial before taking up a forward position and gradually building momentum. He then forged clear in the straight, downing fellow Group 1 winner Panfield by five and a half lengths in 1m 36.16s.
Beaten into second place at each of his past two starts by Golden Sixty in the G1 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) on 29 January and then the G1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m) on 26 February, Romantic Warrior was given a break by trainer Danny Shum to rejuvenate.
Shum was pleased with Romantic Warrior’s willing display ahead of Sunday’s showcase.
“It was a good trial. The horse is good. Last start, he was a little bit tired so I gave him some time off – seven weeks off – which did him good. He recovered quickly and he is good now, fingers crossed,” Shum said.
Attempting to emulate the consecutive QEII Cup triumphs of Japan’s Eishin Preston (2002 and 2003), Romantic Warrior will be ridden by James McDonald in the FWD QEII Cup before Purton takes over in the G1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2400m) on 28 May.
The Hong Kong International Sale Graduate swept to victory in last year’s FWD QEII Cup under Karis Teetan, defeating Tourbillon Diamond and Panfield to complete a wondrous first season with seven wins from eight starts.
Riding the 2022 BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) and LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m) winner for the first time in a trial since 8 November, Purton was impressed by Romantic Warrior.
“He felt fine there. I rode him in a trial earlier in the season and action was a little bit short and he wasn’t quite fit at the time, but he was a different horse this morning,” the five-time Hong Kong champion jockey said.
“He was moving a lot better and he trialled really well.”
Purton will ride Prognosis for Japan in the field against Romantic Warrior on Sunday. He believes Prognosis’ hopes of extending Japan’s stunning recent run of success in the QEII Cup rests on the raider’s capacity to relax and settle.
Renowned for an occasionally fiery temperament, Prognosis possesses a lethal finishing kick with that powerhouse acceleration propelling the Deep Impact five-year-old to five victories from eight starts.
Trained by Mitsumasa Nakauchida, Prognosis will chase a maiden Group 1 victory at the weekend under Purton, who has thoroughly researched the bay’s racing habits and is aware of what can potentially go awry.
“He’s been plagued with a lot of injuries throughout his career and he’s had a bit of a stop-start career but he’s trained by a very good trainer and his last-start win (in the G2 Kinko Sho, 2000m at Chukyo) looked impressive,” Purton said.
“From what I can gather, he can be quite a strong and eager-going horse so we need to hope – in a small field – that the speed is going to suit us and try and get him to relax.
“It looks like he hasn’t reached his full potential yet. He’s on the way up. He’s not the highest-rated (113) horse from Japan to come here so he’s got a little bit to find on ratings but he looks like he’s in good form and he could be a chance.”
Near the tail of the field until straightening for home in the Kinko Sho, Prognosis was able conserve sufficient energy under Yuga Kawada to win comfortably but Sunday’s seven-horse contest might present tactical issues for the visitor.
“He looks like he’s a bit of bolter, he wants to take off in everything that I’ve seen and they’ve made a concerted effort to try to get him to relax out of the gate and at times he’s been three or four lengths behind the second-last horse just trying to get him switch off and even in those races he’s still tried to grab the bit and wanting to go,” Purton said.
“So, his Achilles heel is his eagerness and I’ve got to try to get him to relax otherwise he’s not going to perform.”