Danny Shum is optimistic Romantic Warrior can enhance an already spectacular career in the $12 million Group 1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2400m) at Sha Tin on Sunday despite queries over the brilliant stayer’s ability to cope with the extended trip.
With 10 wins and two second placings from 13 starts and $81,725,400 in prizemoney, Romantic Warrior will step to 2400m for the first time against a potential line-up featuring fellow Group 1 winners Russian Emperor and Panfield as well as rising star Straight Arron, Senor Toba, Money Catcher, Columbus County, Five G Patch and Natural Storm.
“He’s very happy, very sound,” Shum said. “We’re still confident with him. He goes for a spell after this race and then we’ll see for next season.”
Zac Purton will take the reins on Romantic Warrior for the first time in a race as the Acclamation gelding bids to add to Group 1 2000m triumphs in consecutive FWD QEII Cups (2022 and 2023) and the 2022 Hong Kong Cup (2000m) as well as the last season’s Hong Kong Derby (2000m).
The five-time Hong Kong champion jockey has ridden Hong Kong International Sale graduate Romantic Warrior on multiple occasions in work as he prepares to take over from Australia-based James McDonald, who was in the plate for last month’s FWD QEII Cup demolition.
“I’ve done a fair bit of work on him (Romantic Warrior) this season, haven’t been able to ride him on race day yet so it will be nice to get that opportunity,” said Purton, who has 137 wins so far in the 2022/23 jockeys’ championship to hold a 61-win margin over Vincent Ho (76) with only 16 meetings left in the season.
“Going to 2400m is a bit of test for him. He hasn’t run over it before. He did win over 1200m (for three consecutive wins at the start of his career in 2021) – not many horses can win over 1200m and 2400m, so the distance is a question mark, really.
“He’s obviously got the class, it depends on how on the race will be run.”
Purton has ridden against Romantic Warrior on several occasions, famously inflicting the 130-rater’s only defeat as a four-year-old with victory aboard California Spangle in the 2022 Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m).
“He’s (Romantic Warrior) got a good record, he’s one of our very best horses here. There’s a lot to like but he’s just been a bit keen in his work which is his normal trait and he has travelled a little bit strong in his races, from what I’ve seen – and he can’t afford to travel like that over 2400m.
“Hopefully, after that last run, he’s a bit more relaxed and he needs to give himself the chance to run out that distance on Sunday.”
Purton will press for his third victory in the final Group 1 of the Hong Kong season after succeeding atop Exultant in 2019 and 2020, while Panfield (2021) and Russian Emperor (2022) will search for second victories in the feature.