Final Hong Kong Gr1 Of Season On Sunday

Danny Shum is optimistic that Romantic Warrior can continue his already spectacular career at Sunday’s HK$12million Gr1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup in Sha Tin, although doubts remain as to whether the brilliant stayer can handle the longer journey.

With 10 wins and two second places from 13 starts and a purse of HK$81,725,400, Romantic Warrior will reach the 2400m mark for the first time against a potential line-up consisting of the other 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.

The romantic warrior in a class (Image – HKJC)

“He’s very happy and very healthy,” Shum said. “We still have faith in him. After this race he will drive for a while, then we will see next season.”

Zac Purton will take the reins of Romantic Warrior for the first time in a race as the Acclamation gelding seeks to build to Gr1 2000m triumphs in consecutive FWD QEII Cups (2022 and 2023) and the LONGINES Hong Kong Cup 2022 ( 2000 m) to contribute last season’s BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000 m).

Zac Purton – looking for another Gr1 win (Image – HKJC)

The five-time Hong Kong Jockey Champion has professionally ridden Hong Kong International Sale graduate Romantic Warrior on a number of occasions as he prepares to succeed Australia resident James McDonald, whose turn it was last month’s abandonment of the FWD QEII Cup .

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“I’ve been working on him (Romantic Warrior) quite a bit this season, haven’t been able to ride him on race day so it will be nice to get that opportunity,” said Purton, who has 137 wins so far in the Jockeys Championship 2022/23 and has a 61-win lead over Vincent Ho (76) with just 16 matches remaining in the season.

“The ascent to 2400 m is a small challenge for him. He’s never driven over it. He actually won the 1200m (three wins in a row early in his career in 2021) – not many horses can win the 1200m and 2400m so the distance is really a question mark. He’s obviously got the class, it depends on how the race is run.”

Purton has faced Romantic Warrior multiple times and inflicted the only loss on the 130-year-old as a four-year-old by winning the 2022 Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) aboard California Spangle.

“He (Romantic Warrior) has a good record, he is one of our very best horses here. There’s a lot to like but he was just a little bit eager at work which is his normal trait and he’s traveled a little bit heavily in his races from what I’ve seen – and he can’t afford it like that to travel 2400m.

“Hopefully he’s a little more relaxed after the last run and has to give himself the chance to run this distance on Sunday.”

Purton will be pushing for his third win in the final Gr1 of the Hong Kong season after thriving at the helm of Exultant in 2019 and 2020, while Panfield (2021) and Russian Emperor (2022) are targeting second wins in the feature.

The first race in Sha Tin takes place on Sunday morning at 06:30.

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