Extraordinary Romantic Warrior wins Yasuda Kinen

June 2, 2024

Romantic Warrior lands a fifth Group 1 this season. (Alex Evers/JRA) 

Gains Automatic Berth Into Fanduel Breeders’ Cup Mile

By Leo Schlink with Edited Release from the Japan Racing Association courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

TOKYO – Romantic Warrior completed an extraordinary season with G1 Yasuda Kinen (1600m) victory at Tokyo Racecourse this afternoon (Sunday, 2 June) with a stunning performance which left jockey James McDonald almost speechless as Danny Shum’s globe-trotter snared a fifth successive Group 1 feature.

Underlining his status as one of the world’s premier gallopers, Romantic Warrior became Hong Kong’s third Yasuda Kinen victor, joining Fairy King Prawn (2000) and Bullish Luck (2006), while Voyage Bubble under Zac Purton finished a distant 17th of the 18 runners.

With elite level victories in the G1 W.S. Cox Plate (2040m), G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m), G1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m), G1 FWD QEII Cup (2000m) and today’s success, Romantic Warrior clinched his eighth Group 1 overall, enhancing his career record to 15 wins from 20 starts.

Settling fifth, Romantic Warrior was angled into the clear in the home straight as the field climbed the sharp rise near the 300m mark before striking the lead. Driven out by McDonald, Romantic Warrior had half a length to spare on the line from Namur (Yutaka Take), while Soul Rush was a further nose further back under Joao Moreira.

Watched in steady rain by a crowd of 44,577, Romantic Warrior clocked 1m 32.30s.

“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,” Shum said. “I wasn’t too nervous because I was confident in my horse, my team and my jockey.”

Danny Shum celebrates Yasuda Kinen success. (Alex Evers/JRA)
Danny Shum celebrates Yasuda Kinen success. (Alex Evers/JRA)

Composing himself after posting his first win in Japan in one of the nation’s premier races, McDonald said: “He’s a champion racehorse and it’s a very proud day for all of us – the whole team – because to showcase him to Japan was something very, very special in such a prestigious race.

“I’m almost lost for words when I ride this horse because he’s got a big heart and he tries his best all the time. It’s such a hard jurisdiction to race in. There’s such good horses and great jockeys so it’s an absolute privilege to be here and to be winning such a prestigious race is very, very special.”

Earning HK$9 million for the victory, Romantic Warrior – a Hong Kong International Sale graduate and BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) winner – has now amassed HK$151 million in prizemoney, a figure bettered only by Golden Sixty’s HK$167 million. 

In the post-race elation, Shum ruled out a tilt at the G1 Takarazuka Kinen (2200m) at Kyoto on 23 June and confirmed Romantic Warrior would return to Hong Kong with Voyage Bubble early this week to be spelled.

“I think the best thing for the horse is to give him a break and let him rest. He’s not going to race anymore this season,” Shum said.

Purton, who rode Paul O’Sullivan-trained Aerovelocity in Hong Kong’s previous victory in Japan with success in the 2015 G1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen (1200m) at Chukyo Racecourse, said Voyage Bubble failed to handle the left-handed track.

“The barrier (gate 15) didn’t make a difference – I got beat 20 lengths,” he said.

“He’s handled soft ground in Hong Kong before. He travelled on it today, his action was fine. I don’t think the track was a concern for us. He just didn’t fire in the straight. That’s twice now he’s gone left-handed and he’s performed poorly both times, so I think left-handed is not really suitable for him – get him back going right-handed.”

Hong Kong-based Romantic Warrior became the fourth foreign winner of the prestigious turf race after Heart Lake (GB) (1995), Fairy King Prawn (AUS) (2000), and Bullish Luck (USA) (2006), and gave trainer Danny Chap Shing Chum and jockey James McDonald their first win in Japan.

With his victory in the 1-mile contest, Romantic Warrior gained an automatic berth into this year’s $2 million FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) through the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series: Win and You’re In.

Now in its 18th season, the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series is an international series of stakes races whose winners receive automatic starting positions and fees paid into a corresponding race of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, scheduled to be held Nov. 1-2 at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in Del Mar, California.

Bred in Ireland by Corduff Stud & T. J. Rooney, Romantic Warrior is a son Acclamation (GB) out of Folk Melody (IRE), by Street Cry (IRE). Owned by Peter Pak Fai Lau, he earned his 15th win in 20 starts and completed the mile in 1:32.30 over a track listed as good. It was his fifth consecutive victory at the highest level and his eighth Grade/Group 1 score overall.

“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 Lau. “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.”

James McDonald has won seven Group 1s on Romantic Warrior. (Alex Evers/JRA)
James McDonald has won seven Group 1s on Romantic Warrior. (Alex Evers/JRA)

“I’m just extremely proud, very honored to be traveling with such a good horse and to showcase him to such passionate racing fans,” said McDonald. “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.

“Once he hit the front with 200 meters 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. He’s a proven champion. He’s won one of the toughest races in Australia in the Cox Plate, he’s won two Hong Kong Cups taking on strong opposition, 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.”

As a part of the benefits of the Challenge Series, Breeders’ Cup will pay the entry fees for Romantic Warrior to start in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. Breeders’ Cup will also provide a travel allowance for all starters based outside of North America to compete in the World Championships.

@jonathanstettin another excellent day for the man who does it best. Thx Jon &@Tracking_Trips. Hoping you have some thoughts for tomorrow!

Kevin West @KFWest003 View testimonials



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