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James McDonald celebrates after winning the Hong Kong Cup aboard Romantic Warrior.
The Longines Hong Kong International Races are the richest horse races run in Hong Kong, and is the last major race day for Thoroughbred flat racing anywhere in the world. Billed as the "Turf World Championships," four Group 1 races were contested on Sunday afternoon over the right-handed 1 3/16 mile turf oval at Sha Tin Racecourse. Conditions were ideal for racing for the 65,252 fans in attendance, with sunny skies, a daytime high of 27 C (81 F), and the turf going good.
In the main event, a field of 11 older horses contested the HK$36 million (US$4.61 million) Longines Hong Kong Cup (G1) at 2000 meters (about 1 1/4 miles) on the turf. Defending champion Romantic Warrior was sent off as the 6-5 favorite off his win in the Cox Plate (G1) at Moonee Valley. In to challenge him included 3-1 second choice Prognosis, winner of the Sapporo Kinen (G2) but third in the Tenno Sho Autumn (G1) last out, and 6-1 third choice Horizon Dore, third in the British Champion Stakes (G1) at Ascot after winning the Prix Dollar (G2) at Longchamp.
Jockey Derek Leung sent 125-1 Money Catcher to the lead first time by and he set easy fractions of 26.36, 51.19, and 1:15.07 while pressed by 130-1 longest shot Champion Dragon and stalked by 89-1 Nimble Nimbus. Turning for home Money Catcher continued to lead through 1 mile in 1:38.52 before tiring. Favorite Romantic Warrior, fourth early under James McDonald, took over at the 3/16 pole and was all out to hold off late-running 7-1 fourth choice Luxembourg to win by a head in 2:02.00. It was a neck back to 13-1 Hishi Iguazu third.
# Horse Jockey Win Place 2 Romantic Warrior McDonald 4.70 2.50 1 Luxembourg Moore 4.60 5 Hishi Iguazu Moreira 7.50 Winning Time: 2:02.00 $1 Quinella 1-2 9.30 $1 Exacta 2-1 11.30 $1 Trifecta 2-1-5 108.70Results Chart from HKJC with video replay
Left: Romantic Warrior in the winner's circle after the Hong Kong Cup. Winning jockey James McDonald said, "I'm so proud of this horse. He's the best horse. He's one of the toughest horses I've ever ridden, that's what makes him so special. He's so easy to ride and he's got a heart as big as a lion. He's had the trip to Australia – this is his best win."
Right: Romantic Warrior poses with his connections and winner's blanket. Winning trainer Danny Shum said, "No matter how he was in trackwork, it's not easy at all. We're lucky that Romantic Warrior is a real warrior. He had a hard race and then two days off and a long flight. If you're a human being, when you go overseas you get jet lag, whereas a horse just stays on the box. He's a tough, tough horse and I love him."
Left: Romantic Warrior heads out to the track before the race. Asked about future plans, Shum added, "I never told Peter (Lau, owner) what to do, he gave me the decision and I followed his plan. I don't think it was his best performance this time; he can do better, we know that. But just think about the long flight and a tough race before quarantine. You can imagine it's really, really hard for a horse. But he can take it, he's too good."
Right: All the connections and officials pose with the trophy and winner's banner after the trophy presentation for the Hong Kong Cup. Hong Kong Jockey Club CEO Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges said, "Probably the most exciting 2000m race I have seen this year. Similar to the Cox Plate, where you had really top horses fighting it out at the top of the straight. That a Hong Kong horse (Romantic Warrior) won is good, but when you look at the form of Luxembourg, again sporting wise it was a fantastic performance."
Left: Second place finisher Luxembourg enters the track for the post parade. Jockey Ryan Moore said, "He ran a very big race. I was delighted with him." Trainer Aidan O'Brien added, He ran a great race. He was coming and coming and just on the wrong nod [Romantic Warrior] came back up on him. But he ran a stormer, Ryan gave him a great ride. He's brave and he tries very hard. He's not been over-raced and he is very consistent."
Right: Third place finisher Hishi Iguazu enters the track for the post parade. Jockey Joao Moreira said, "Fantastic run. I had a bit of an issue to deal with at the top of the straight."
Carrying the trophy out for the winner's circle celebration. Hong Kong Jockey Club CEO Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges said, "I've been here now for 25 years and this was one of the best – if not the best – days of racing we have had in Hong Kong. I would like especially to thank the connections, because this would not be possible without the tremendous support from horsemen around the world. We have a team dedicated to excellence and that makes the Jockey Club proud. It has shown today and the whole week that Hong Kong is back on the global stage and that Hong Kong racing is one of the global racing products which I feel as a city we should be proud of."
HKJC Executive Director of Racing Andrew Harding added, "We were proud of what we were able to achieve during the dark days of the pandemic. Today showed that in December Hong Kong is the place to be and that the eyes of the racing world turn to us. I'm just so proud that we were able to show the world that Hong Kong is Asia's world city and we were able to give our visitors a fantastic week."
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