Outstanding jockey James McDonald has conceded that it won’t be a straightforward task when he rides the two horses representing the Melbourne Spring Carnival form in Hong Kong on Sunday: Romantic Warrior and West Wind Blows.
Cox Plate hero Romantic Warrior is out to defend his title when he contests the G1 Hong Kong Cup on Sunday, where he’ll take on classy European gallopers Luxembourg and Horizon Dore as well as the strong Japanese trio of Prognosis, Rousham Park and Hishi Iguazu.
McDonald has been involved in Romantic Warrior’s preparation for the international meeting since the gelding returned from his trip to Melbourne and guided him to a recent barrier trial win over 1600m at Sha Tin.
“He’s obviously had to go through quarantine again and travel all the way back, so it’s going to be a huge task and I think the field’s a little bit stronger than last year, but in terms of his form, he’s in good form, he’s moving well, he needed that trial about ten days ago,” McDonald said.
“He was a little bit stuffy having his first hard hit out, but I’ve worked him again since with a solid gallop and he’d just improved significantly. That’s what he did in Melbourne as well, from his first run to his second run, his work just went up a notch, it was there for everyone to see, and I think that’s what’s happened from his trial to his second bit of work.
“He’s got a huge task ahead of him, no doubt about that but he’s a champion racehorse. One thing about Romantic Warrior, he wears his heart on his sleeve, and he gives his best every time.
“He’ll be there when the whips are cracking.”
The Simon and Ed Crisford trained British galloper arrives in Hong Kong on the back of three runs in Melbourne, with his best performance coming in the G1 Caulfield Cup, where he finished second to subsequent Melbourne Cup victor Without A Fight.
McDonald got a feel for West Wind Blows when he sat on him in a piece of work at Sha Tin on Tuesday morning, ahead of his assignment in the G1Hong Kong Vase.
“He’s a beautiful horse, very casual in his work,” McDonald said.
“He went around with his ears pricked, he’s got a great skin on him, moving well and I think he’ll obviously get back out to his correct trip at a mile and a half, which will suit him down to the ground.
“A smallish field this time, instead of the numbers he’s been facing in Melbourne, so hopefully we get a good trip in transit.
“It’s a competitive race as well, probably the two strongest races are the Hong Kong Cup and the Vase, so he’s going to have to be at his brilliant best, but I think he’s definitely up to it.”