Romantic Warrior Challenges Japanese Stars in Yasuda Kinen

May 31, 2024

Romantic Warrior. (Alex Evers/HKJC)

Winner Gains Automatic Berth into FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile for World Championships at Del Mar

Breeders’ Cup Release

TOKYO — Taking on the top milers from Japan, 7-time international Group 1 winner and Hong Kong-based Romantic Warrior (IRE) leads an 18-horse field for the $2.7 million Yasuda Kinen (G1) on June 2 at Tokyo Racecourse. The winner of the 1-mile race on turf will earn an automatic starting position into the $2 million FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) through the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series: Win and You’re In.

The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series is an international series of 82 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. 

The Yasuda Kinen will be shown live on FanDuel TV at 2:40 a.m. ET.

Making his first start in Japan, Peter Pak Fai Lau’s 6-year-old gelding Romantic Warrior comes into the Yasuda Kinen off a torrid stretch of four consecutive Group 1 wins at 1 1/4 miles. Trained by Danny Chap Sing Chum, Romantic Warrior’s top-level streak began last October in Australia, where he took the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley. Returning to his Hong Kong base, the son of Acclamation (GB) out of the Street Cry (IRE) mare Folk Melody (IRE) captured the Dec. 10 Longines Hong Kong Cup at Sha Tin over Luxembourg (IRE) and followed up Feb. 28 by taking the Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup, defeating Voyage Bubble (AUS) by a neck.

Last time out, he made it four in a row by coming widest of all down the stretch to win the April 28 FWD QE II at Sha Tin by a neck, improving his record to 14 wins in 19 starts. 

“He’s just a champion racehorse and I think his greatest attributes is sustained speed, a fantastic will to win and he’s got a big heart—he loves fighting out finishes and he’s never let us down yet, so I can’t see him doing otherwise in the Yasuda Kinen,” said his regular rider James McDonald on the Japan Racing Association website. “He’s showcased his skills in Australia and Hong Kong and we’re hoping that he will run a good race on Sunday and hopefully he can showcase how good he is to the Japanese fans.”

Fellow Hong Kong star Voyage Bubble has won six races for Sunshine And Moonlight Syndicate and trainer Poon Fai Yiu. Following a half-length defeat to Golden Sixty (AUS) in the Longines Hong Kong Mile last December, the 6-year-old gelding by Deep Field (AUS) won Sha Tin’s Jan. 21 Stewards Cup (G1) at 1 mile. He comes into this race off a third-place finish in the April 28 FWD Champions Mile (G1) at Sha Tin over a yielding course. 

Among the leaders in the formidable Japanese contingent is Tatsue Ishikawa’s 6-year-old Soul Rush (JPN), who won his seventh race last time out when he took the April 21 Yomiuri Milers Cup (G2) by 1 3/4 lengths over Serifos (JPN) at Kyoto in his seasonal debut. Trained by Yasutoshi Ikee, the son of Rulership (JPN) has been a consistently top miler. He captured last September’s Keisei Hai Autumn Handicap (G3) at Nakayama and was second by a neck to Namur (JPN) in the Nov. 19 Mile Championship (G1) at Kyoto. He will look to improve on his ninth-place finish in last year’s Yasuda Kinen.

Seeking her sixth win, Carrot Farm Co. Ltd.’s 5-year-old mare Namur is looking to make amends for her surprising eighth-place finish as the second choice in the May 12 Victoria Mile (G1), a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series race for the Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1). Trained by Tomokazu Takano, the daughter of Harbinger ran third in last year’s Hong Kong Mile, and opened the season with a stellar performance, finishing second in a head-bobbing finish to Facteur Cheval (IRE) by a nose in the 1 1/8-mile Dubai Turf (G1) March 30 at Meydan. 

As a part of the benefits of the Challenge Series, Breeders’ Cup will pay the entry fees for the winner of the Yasuda Kinen to start in the Breeders’ Cup Mile on turf at Del Mar. Breeders’ Cup will also provide a travel allowance for all starters based outside of North America to compete in the World Championships. The Challenge winner must be nominated to the Breeders’ Cup program by the pre-entry deadline of Oct. 21 to receive the rewards.

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