It’s been over a decade since James McDonald’s sole Group One win in Hong Kong, but the superstar New Zealander will begin an association with Romantic Warrior this weekend he hopes can deliver a second.
McDonald took out the 2012 Champions Mile aboard the John Moore-trained Xtension and now has his sights set on the Group One Hong Kong Cup (2,000m) with a horse for whom the sky looks the limit.
McDonald partners the Danny Shum Chap-shing-trained Romantic Warrior in Sunday’s Group Two Jockey Club Cup (2,000m), saying the decision to jet in to ride last season’s Hong Kong Derby and QE II Cup winner was a no-brainer.
“It’s very exciting. When I watched his replays, it was a pretty easy decision to be honest,” McDonald told the Post.
“Obviously, he’s got his challenges ahead of him, being first up over 2,000m is no easy task, but he looks a ripping horse.
“I think he’s as good a horse as there is in Hong Kong at the moment, so to get an opportunity to ride a horse like him on his home track is pretty exciting.”
After a setback in August delayed his return to the races, Romantic Warrior steps out for the first time since his QE II Cup victory in April.
All going well, next month he will try to become the first locally trained horse to win the Hong Kong Cup second up since Motivation in 1993.
McDonald replaces the sidelined Karis Teetan in the saddle and Shum has confirmed he will also partner Romantic Warrior at the Hong Kong International Races, even though the star Mauritian is making big strides in his comeback from illness.
McDonald will have to be at his sharpest from gate nine of nine from the tricky Sha Tin 2,000m start on Sunday, and he may take heed of the positivity Teetan showed from barrier eight over the same trip in March’s Derby.
McDonald will get a sighter of the short run into the first turn in the opening race on the card, partnering another Shum-trained galloper, Secret Vision, in the Class Three BOCHK Cross-Border Services Handicap (2,000m).
Secret Vision and Romantic Warrior are among eight rides McDonald has for Shum, with his only other mount coming aboard David Hayes-trained speedster Super Wealthy in the Group Two Jockey Club Sprint (1,200m).
“I’m looking forward to it. I’ve got a really good book of rides. Super Wealthy looks a good chance in a competitive race, and Victor The Winner looks well placed from a good draw,” said the 30-year-old, who arrived in Hong Kong on Thursday night.
Earlier this week, McDonald was confirmed as one of the headline acts for next month’s Longines International Jockeys’ Championship, and he is expecting big things in a competition in which he has finished second twice.
“I reckon I’ll win it this year. I’ve got a good feeling,” he said. “It’s a great night and a great atmosphere. To get asked every year is great. It’s a great week to be part of.
“They do it so well, and the IJC is a brilliant series to be part of. It’s a lot of fun as well as obviously being very competitive and unique being at Happy Valley. It’s a great place. I love riding there.”