Here’s hoping Hong Kong’s heroes usher in a new era

News that Romantic Warrior could head to Japan for the Tenno Sho (Autumn) and a showdown with Equinox is not just a great prospect for racing fans, but would be a much needed boost for the reputation of Hong Kong racing.

Romantic Warrior produced a dominant performance in the G1 QEII Cup. (Photo by Yu Chun Christopher Wong/Getty Images)

Michael Cox



It is fitting that Danny Shum is set to snap the seeming reluctance to test Hong Kong’s very best on foreign shores. 

Shum was at the centre of two of Hong Kong’s most daring and defining overseas raids. In 2001 the Ivan Allan-trained Fairy King Prawn became Hong Kong’s first ever overseas Group 1 winner in the Yasuda Kinen at Tokyo. Assistant to Allan was Shum, who travelled with the horse, rode in work and led him around the Tokyo parade ring pre-race. 

Then in 2012, Shum – this time as trainer – took a Group 2 winner named Little Bridge to Royal Ascot and won the G1 King’s Stand Stakes. 

Those wins helped put Hong Kong on the map, but in the decade after Shum donned the top hat and tails, that sense of daring slowly diminished and was all but extinguished by the city’s strict Covid travel restrictions.


Zac Purton celebrates Royal Ascot glory aboard Little Bridge in the King's Stand Stakes. (Photo by Getty Images)

Danny Shum celebrates Romantic Warrior's G1 QEII Cup success. (Photo by HKJC)

As dominant as Hong Kong’s three Group 1 winners were on Champions Day, the most exciting news for international racing fans came when Shum declared that his stable star, Romantic Warrior, would head abroad. 

Romantic Warrior had just won the QEII Cup by two lengths, after Lucky Sweynesse put three and a quarter on the Chairman’s Sprint Prize field and Golden Sixty won his third straight Champions Mile by one and a half. 

It was a banner day for the Hong Kong Jockey Club but it was also expected against underwhelming opposition: Romantic Warrior started 1.6 against six rivals, Golden Sixty was 1.4 against seven and Lucky Sweynesse even shorter at 1.2 against seven other runners. 

Then Shum revealed in his post-race press conference that he planned to take Romantic Warrior to the Tenno Sho (Autumn). 

“We plan to run in the [Champions & Chater Cup], and then the season will end,” Shum said. “Then we’ll have a good look at Japan and which run I should start him in his first start. Probably October, I’ll send him to Japan to take his first start.” 

Shum pointed to owner Peter Lau’s links to Japan through his Hong Kong homeware chain store, Japan Home Centre, and desire to race a horse there.

They have chosen a hell of a race: the Tenno Sho is likely to include last year’s winner Equinox, now the highest rated racehorse in the world.

Equinox dazzled in the G1 Sheema Classic at Meydan. (Photo by Shuhei Okada)

Hopefully the decision is part of a renaissance of international participation for Hong Kong horses. 

Lucky Sweynesse holds an entry to next month’s Yasuda Kinen and surely an Everest slot is assured. 

Then there is Golden Sixty, now with another accolade: highest earning racehorse of all time. Francis Lui’s seven-year-old has clearly compiled an exceptional record but it has all been on one track. A legacy-defining opportunity awaits. Vet issues aside, there is no excuse for Golden Sixty not to contest the Yasuda Kinen, where he would start as the dominant favourite against a below par crop of Japanese milers. 

This week HKJC CEO Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges called for greater international participation in Hong Kong’s international races, specifically from the best British- and Irish-trained runners. 

There is no doubt that the growing quality of Hong Kong horses has made the Sha Tin Group 1s a less enticing prospect, especially with the addition of big money races in Australia and the Middle East. 

Lucky Sweynesse storms to victory in the G1 Chairman's Sprint Prize. (Photo by Yu Chun Christopher Wong/Getty Images)

An historic third G1 Champions Mile for Golden Sixty. (Photo by HKJC)

When considering the HKJC wishes of being the centre of the racing world, the saying ‘be the change you want to see’ comes to mind.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Japan opened up to the world via the Japan Cup and they were smashed by the foreign raiders. Then they improved rapidly, and the stampede of visitors became a drip feed. 

The Japanese didn’t complain, they became bold, and now feature in numbers at nearly every major carnival in the world. 

Hong Kong won’t ever match Japan for numbers, but it can for ambition and a sense of sporting adventure. 

Engelbrecht-Bresges said of the lack of British and Irish involvement: “It’s important for the development of Asia long term that those countries show their quality.”

Maybe that is the case, but one thing is certain, it is important for the credibility of Hong Kong racing – and the lofty international ratings of its stars – that its horses tackle some meaningful targets in the near future.




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