Hong Kong trainer Danny Shum is lapping up the international spotlight as he sets out to create history with favourite Romantic Warrior in Saturday’s $5 million Cox Plate.
The eyes of the racing world are on Shum – known at home as ‘Iron Man’ because of his unrivalled work ethic – and Hong Kong’s premier middle-distance galloper.
A three-time Group 1 winner over 2000m, Romantic Warrior arrives at The Valley with a huge reputation and is primed to tackle Australasia’s weight-for-age championship over 2040m.
But there have only been three northern hemisphere-trained winners of the Cox Plate and one from Asia – Japanese star Lys Gracieux in 2019 – in the century-old race’s history.
The son of Acclamation faces stiff competition from the likes of Gold Trip, last year’s Melbourne Cup winner, as well as old rivals Alligator Blood and Mr Brightside.
Romantic Warrior’s trainer Danny Shum has earned the nickname ‘Iron Man’ because of his unrivalled work ethic
James McDonald will be looking to use every bit of Shum’s experience when he rides Romantic Warrior in the Cox Plate
‘It’s a big pressure but it’s a motivation,’ Shum said.
‘I like to take the pressure. My nickname is ‘Iron Man’ in Hong Kong, so pressure for me is not a problem.
‘Hong Kong people love to watch the Cox Plate, especially with Romantic Warrior in the race. It brings me a lot of motivation as well.
‘It’s a great honour to come here. It’s a really great honour to send a horse to run in the Cox Plate, one of the most major races in Australia.
‘If I can win I can create history. That’s good for me, good for Hong Kong Jockey Club and Australian (racing) as well.’
Shum said Romantic Warrior has improved to ’90 to 95 per cent’ fit since placing fourth first-up in the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes and insists Cox Plate favouritism is justified.
Romantic Warrior will jump from barrier seven under top jockey James McDonald, who rode Anamoe to Cox Plate glory last year.
‘If he can settle, get some cover, he’ll hit the line strongly,’ Shum said.
‘He’ll handle the sharp turn, he’s got a big chance to win the Cox Plate.
‘I think he should be the favourite, according to his form, he should be the favourite.’
Rebecca Shanks riding Alligator Blood from the Waterhouse and Bott racing team during a beach trackwork session at Altona Beach
Gold Trip will be another big chance in the Cox Plate after finishing third in a tight finish in the Caulfield Cup
Romantic Warrior was a $3.80 favourite on Friday, with Alligator Blood ($6) and Mr Brightside ($7) also among the leading contenders.
Mr Brightside had won five straight races before running second as favourite to Chris Waller’s Fangirl in the Group 1 King Charles III Stakes last start.
Fangirl and Gold Trip were both $8 Cox Plate chances on Friday.
Trainer Ben Hayes pointed to Mr Brightside’s form at The Valley – three wins from four starts – as cause for optimism and dismissed questions over the gelding’s ability to cover the 2040m trip.
‘Barrier two gives him every opportunity to do that, he should have a nice soft run,’ Hayes said.
‘All I can say is the horse is in fantastic order … and he’s got a real chance. The stable is very confident.’