David Morgan

Chief Journalist


Romantic Warrior the new pin-up for Hong Kong’s unique and not quite pinhook auction

Last year’s star graduate has given a timely fillip to the idiosyncratic Hong Kong International Sale.

The Hong Kong International Sale (HKIS) has a new poster boy thanks to the brilliant exploits of Romantic Warrior this season and Hong Kong’s permit-holding owners will be hoping the Hong Kong Jockey Club can deliver gold again when they make their bids at Saturday’s incarnation.

The four-year-old’s graduation through one of the bloodstock world’s more peculiar auctions was timely: the sale’s long-time pin-up, the great miler Good Ba Ba, is now 20 years old, his fellow Hong Kong Mile winning graduate, The Duke, is 23, and its other star, the two-time Group One winner Pakistan Star, a spry nine-year-old, was brilliant but deeply-flawed.


HKIS graduate Good Ba Ba wins the 2008 Champions Mile. (Photo by Mark Dadswell/Getty Images)

Romantic Warrior appears to be the full package having won seven of eight races, including the Group One QEII Cup, the Hong Kong Derby and the Hong Kong Classic Mile.    

The Irish-bred son of Acclamation was sourced by Mick Kinane and purchased for the HKIS at a cost of 300,000 guineas out of Book One of the 2019 Tattersalls October Yearling Sale. He represents the new era, in which Kinane as the European buyer and Craig Rounsefell in Australasia and the United States have already been given some extra pennies to spend compared to the past.

The Club traditionally has operated in the middle to upper-middle market but in April, at the Inglis Easter Sale in Sydney, the HKJC stepped into rare territory when Rounsefell put his hand up to seal a Zoustar colt for a cool AU$1 million. 

This year’s HKIS is set to offer 17 horses and two to watch out for are a Deep Field gelding, Lot 11, bought for AU$550,000 at the Inglis Melbourne Premier Sale in 2021, and Lot 9, a three-year-old by I Am Invincible bought out of the 2020 Inglis Easter Yearling Sale for AU$700,000. They both clocked 10.76s for the final 200 metres in last weekend’s breeze.

Lot 9, a colt by I Am Invincible breezed up in 10.76s for the final 200m. (Photo by HKJC)

All of the HKIS horses are bought out of yearling sales or ready to run sales in Europe, Australasia and the United States before being reoffered at the Sha Tin sale in what is an odd twist on pinhooking.

The idea is that the HKJC sources quality horses, prepares them, ensures they are sound enough, and then offers them to what amounts to a select number of members who possess the right permit, and therefore qualify to make a bid.   

The HKJC is a private members club, after all, and to own a racehorse a member must be bestowed with a permit, which then allows them to buy a horse – a Private Purchase (PP), an unraced Private Purchase Griffin (PPG) or an unraced International Sale Griffin (ISG) – and put it into training with a HKJC-licensed handler. 

Newgate Farm's stallion Deep Field, the sire of Lot 11. (Photo by Newgate Farm)

Romantic Warrior was sold at the HKIS to Peter Lau for HK$4.8 million (AU$814,236). He was among the last batch of HKIS horses sent to Malcolm Bastard’s pre-training facility in Wiltshire but since then the horses go straight to Manton in order to have them more hardened in a racing stable environment before they arrive at Sha Tin.

Last year’s HKIS June graduates have raced a total of 85 times: two have already retired, one is yet to race and five of them have won 13 races between them, with Romantic Warrior accounting for seven of the wins.  

Since 1996, four per cent of the 700 HKIS graduates have achieved a rating of 100 or higher and four horses have won an international-standard Group One race.

The sale has produced 411 individual winners, with 71 of the 289 non-winners having never made the track, including a Fastnet Rock (Danehill) gelding that topped the sale in 2011 at HK$9 million.

As with any thoroughbred auction, there have been plenty of expensive flops but Romantic Warrior proves that a good one could pop up at any time and the fresh-in-the-mind memories of last season’s exploits should renew confidence in the unique sale.  




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