Trio Of Favorites Shine At Sha Tin On Champions Day - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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Trio Of Favorites Shine At Sha Tin On Champions Day

Romantic Warrior wins the QEII Cup at Sha Tin

Surging into history with another remarkable performance, Romantic Warrior has capped an unlikely ascent from obscurity to stardom for trainer Danny Shum and jockey Karis Teetan with a stunning FWD QEII Cup (G1) victory Sunday at Sha Tin Racecourse.

The QEII Cup was one of a trio of Group 1 races anchoring FWD Champions Day at the Hong Kong track with favorites prevailing in each. Along with Romantic Warrior in the QE II Cup, Golden Sixty took the FWD Champions Mile and Wellington won the Chairman's Sprint Prize.

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 span of eight starts–from Class 4 company at Happy Valley Racecourse in October to Group 1 success against Hong Kong's elite stayers.

A 4-year-old Acclamation gelding, Romantic Warrior scored a scintillating two-length success Sunday over Tourbillon Diamond and Panfield in 2:00.13 for 2,000 meters (about 1 ¼ miles).

Guided from trouble while fourth behind a stop-start tempo to the 800-meter mark, Romantic Warrior angled into clear running in the straight and was never seriously challenged, powering over the final 400 meters in a quick :22.62 to cap a wondrous first season.

Romantic Warrior's lone career defeat in eight starts came in the Hong Kong Classic Cup in February when caught wide and fourth behind California Spangle.

“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.”

Selected by former Irish champion jockey Michael Kinane at the 2019 Tattersalls October yearling sale at Newmarket, where he sold to the Hong Kong Jockey Club for 300,000 guineas, Romantic Warrior was purchased in 2021 by owner Peter Lau for HK$4.8 million at the Hong Kong International Sale. His dam is the Street Cry mare Folk Melody, a daughter of Canadian Grade 1 winner Folk Opera.

In the Champions Mile, reigning Hong Kong Horse of the Year Golden Sixty became Hong Kong's all-time leading money winner.

Sealing his sixth Group 1 in the process for jockey Vincent Ho and trainer Francis Lui, Golden Sixty enhanced his all-time bank to HK$113,400,600 with HK$11.4 million for first place today, surpassing the mantle of HK$106,233,750 previously held by Beauty Generation.

Staring from gate two, Golden Sixty settled in fourth spot on the rail as California Spangle led the field under Zac Purton.

In the straight, jockey Ho pulled the 6-year-old Medgalia d'Oro gelding out and in the blink of an eye he had the race shot to bits as California Spangle battled bravely for second, beaten by only two lengths while Excellent Proposal filled third.

“He did well. He traveled comfortably and actually when Zac steadied the pace a little bit he started to travel a bit keen but he is strong enough and brave enough to push through that gap and run them down easily,” Ho said.

Sunday's victory marks Golden Sixty's 21st, achieved across 24 starts in Hong Kong.

“He still wanted to slow down a bit the last couple of strides but he did amazing,” Ho said if Golden Sixty, who was produced by the Distorted Humor mare Gaudeamus.

Golden Sixty – in the silks of owner Stanley Chan – clocked a winning time of 1:32.81.

Also on Sunday, Wellington joined one of the most select clubs in Hong Kong racing's fabled speed division Sunday when running out a dominant winner of the Chairman's Sprint Prize under Alexis Badel.

Trainer Richard Gibson's powerful 5-year-old All Too Hard gelding, who captured the coveted prize with a striking turn of foot in 2021, was bidding to join Mr Vitality, Fairy King Prawn, Silent Witness, Sacred Kingdom, Dim Sum, and Lucky Nine as a dual winner of Hong Kong's final Group 1 dash of the season in recent years.

Only Mr Vitality, Silent Witness, and Lucky Nine had landed the prize in successive years since 1995 but Wellington emulated them with a clinical performance which left Badel beaming and Gibson hailing “equine brilliance” as Hong Kong racing took a significant step towards pre-pandemic normality with owners back at the races for the first time since January 12.

Wellington was ridden with characteristic confidence by Badel and settled comfortably in fifth through a strong opening quarter of :23.36 set by the freewheeling Kurpany.

Computer Patch nosed ahead briefly with 300 meters to run, followed by Sight Success, but Badel had both moves covered in a flash and Wellington stormed past them with ears pricked to win by 1 ¼ lengths 1:08.09 for 1,200 meters (about six furlongs).

Wellington, produced by the More Than Ready mare Mihiri, has won 10 of his 16 starts while earning more than HK$40 million in prize money.

“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,” said Hong Kong Jockey Club's Chief Executive Officer Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges.

“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.”

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