Surging into history with another remarkable performance, Romantic Warrior has capped an unlikely ascent from obscurity to stardom for Danny Shum and Karis Teetan with a stunning HKD$25 million Group 1 FWD QEII Cup (2000m) victory at Sha Tin on Sunday (April 24).
Joining Werther (2016), Designs On Rome (2014), Ambitious Dragon (2011) and Vengeance Of Rain (2005) in completing the Hong Kong Derby-QEII Cup double, Romantic Warrior crowned an unlikely advance – in the space of eight fleeting starts – from Class 4 company at Happy Valley in October to Group 1 success today against Hong Kong's elite stayers.
Selected by former Irish champion jockey Michael Kinane from the 2019 Tattersalls Sale at Newmarket on behalf of The Hong Kong Jockey Club, Romantic Warrior was purchased by owner Peter Lau for HKD$4.8 million last year at the 2021 Hong Kong International Sale.
With his seventh victory, the son of Acclamation boosted his prize money earnings to an imposing HKD$39.96 million – a figure bolstered by a top-up bonus of HKD$900,000 for his latest conquest, a scintillating two-length success over Tourbillon Diamond and Panfield in 2m 00.13s.
Cosseted away from trouble in fourth place behind a stop-start tempo to the 800m mark, Romantic Warrior angled into clear running in the straight and was never seriously challenged, powering over the final 400m in 22.62s to seal a wondrous first-season.
For Teetan, it was a perfect bookend to an already glorious week.
“It's been a great week with my little baby girl (Isabelle) being born on Tuesday, so all my focus was going into her. I was trying to be a daddy and also put my focus into the racing,” the Mauritian said. “He's an amazing horse, well done to the team.
“The Derby was very special for all of us. This race we thought was a good plan with no international horses coming but we had in mind that he's a bit younger than the other horses – but he's better than all of them so he proved what kind of horse he is today. “Danny and his team have done a great job.”
Renowned as a horseman with a keen eye for the smallest detail, Shum was adamant at his first inspection of Romantic Warrior at last year's Hong Kong International Sale that he was clearly the best lot on offer.
“I feel great and happy to see the horse steadily improve and I've always loved his manner, but his manner is getting better and better,” Shum said. “He's very easy to train. He's a very nice horse. He's a superstar.
“He's surprised me. When I bought him for Mr Peter Lau, I thought he was a nice horse – that's all I could say. I thought in the Hong Kong International Sale he was the best horse but I didn't know how good he was.
“I'm very happy for the owner, he has encouraged me to do better and better.”
Romantic Warrior's sole career defeat came in the Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) in February when caught wide and fourth behind California Spangle and an inspired Zac Purton ride.
Coincidentally, Purton today became only the second jockey in history to ride 1,400 winners in Hong Kong after Douglas Whyte (1,813) when Tony Cruz's Beauty Joy swept to victory in the Class 2 Bullish Luck Handicap (1600m).
“It (reaching 1,400 wins) just means I've had a lot of support and success in my time which is nice,” Purton said. “You can't do it without the horses and the connections. I've had another good season. I've had a great career here. It's nice.”
Asked if Whyte's record was an objective, Purton, 39, said: “It's there, it's within touching distance. If I wanted to go for it, I can get it – we'll see.”
Four-time champion trainer Caspar Fownes became only the fourth horseman in Hong Kong history to saddle 1,000 winners when Lucky Quality prevailed in the first section of the Class 4 Oriental Express Handicap (1200m) under Alfred Chan.
“It's something to be proud of,” Fownes, 54, said after joining John Moore (1,735), John Size (1,395) and Tony Cruz (1,393) in an elite cluster. “I would not have got here without a lot of people that have helped me through my life. Very happy that we've hit the big 1,000 and looking forward to continuing to win some good races with my team and all the hard work we've done together.
“A big shout out to my wife (Alix), she's my driving force, pushing me to be very successful – and my boys (Ryan, Ronan and Riley) – and I love her for that. We've been blessed, we've had so many good horses. There have been so many highlights, my first winner (Champion Boy in 2003) at the start of my career. It was ‘game on' from then.”
Blake Shinn capitalised on barrier one to pilot David Hayes-trained Kai Xin Dragon to victory in the second section of the Class 4 Sacred Kingdom Handicap (1200m) before Matthew Poon delivered Charity Grace with a rails-hugging run to land the Class 3 River Dancer Handicap (1600m) for Danny Shum.
David Hall's Kung Fu Tea handled a rise in grade with a tenacious win in the Class 4 Able One Handicap (1400m) under South African Lyle Hewitson before Paul O'Sullivan's Reve Parisien caused a 93/1 upset in the Fairy King Prawn Handicap (1200m) for Keith Yeung.
Hewitson sealed his first Hong Kong double when he guided Douglas Whyte's Super Ten to victory in the Class 3 Vengeance Of Rain Handicap (1400m).
Hayes closed the meeting in style when Lucky With You snared the Class 2 Silent Witness Handicap (1200m) under Teetan to clinch a HKD$1 million High Achievement Bonus by winning a Class 2 when rated at 80 (82) or higher before turning five.
Referring to the performances of Golden Sixty, Wellington and Romantic Warrior and the overall success of the day, The Hong Kong Jockey Club's Chief Executive Officer Mr Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges said: “Today was FWD Champions Day and it really was a day of champions, it was the day when records were broken and a day of great excitement because our owners were able to return to the track. Even though we had only just over 1,000 owners and guests, it sometimes felt like 10,000 because of the vibrancy of the day. It has been a wonderful day.
“Today was really the day when champions were at their best and, with the support of our sponsor FWD, I would describe the day as a great success and a restart of the vibrancy of Hong Kong racing with it no longer being staged behind closed doors.
“We have seen world-class performances from Golden Sixty in the FWD Champions Mile, Wellington in the Chairman's Sprint Prize and the remarkable performance of Romantic Warrior in the FWD QEII Cup.
“I would like to thank the Hong Kong Government for allowing us to keep racing and also for giving us permission to have owners back at the track today. We look forward to being able to welcome back our members and members of the public to join us at the track.”