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Romantic Warrior’s remarkable rise, Golden Sixty’s Japan travel deadline

Romantic Warrior completed one of the more remarkable preparations Hong Kong racing has seen with his victory in the Group One QE II Cup (2,000m) at Sha Tin on Sunday, progressing from his Class Four debut in October to victory in the city’s third-richest race in the space of eight starts.

After reeling off four consecutive victories to begin his career, the son of Acclamation won the Classic Mile before becoming the first horse to win the Hong Kong Derby in their first preparation.

The four-year-old then joined Vengeance Of Rain (2005), Ambitious Dragon (2011), Designs On Rome (2014) and Werther (2016) as the only gallopers to do the Derby-QE II Cup double in the same season.

It’s a feat that earned Ambitious Dragon, Designs On Rome and Werther Horse of the Year honours – Vengeance Of Rain was beaten to the gong by the great Silent Witness – and Romantic Warrior will be very much in the conversation comes season’s end.

Like Vengeance Of Rain, however, Danny Shum Chap-shing’s superstar has an absolute champion standing in his way in the form of Sunday’s Champions Mile victor Golden Sixty.

Last season’s Horse of the Year added another 2021-22 Group One success to his victory in December’s Hong Kong Mile and it is the calibre of that victory that could give the brilliant miler the nod.

While Champions Day was devoid of international raiders because of the Covid-19 situation in Hong Kong and Romantic Warrior has only raced against local competition, Golden Sixty brushed aside Japanese quartet Salios, Indy Champ, Vin De Garde and Danon Kingly, as well

as Aidan O’Brien’s Mother Earth, when winning on international day.

Another horse with a case is Richard Gibson’s Wellington, who landed his second Group One of the season in Sunday’s Chairman’s Sprint Prize, but he is another galloper who hasn’t conquered international competition this season.

Take nothing away from the five-year-old though – he is Hong Kong’s first consistently brilliant sprinter since Mr Stunning and Beat The Clock sailed off into the sunset a couple of years ago

Lui outlines Golden Sixty’s timeline

Trainer Francis Lui Kin-wai says the next 10 days will be crucial in deciding whether Golden Sixty travels to Japan for the Group One Yasuda Kinen (1,600m) on June 5.

The veteran trainer confirmed Golden Sixty will only travel if himself, jockey Vincent Ho Chak-yiu and owner Stanley Chan Ka-leung can accompany the horse, and that it won’t put too much pressure on his stable in Hong Kong.

“We’ll use the next 10 days to see if it’s going to be possible,” Lui told the Post on Monday morning.

“It will come down to the quarantine and whether it is convenient to travel. There’s many things we have to think about. Mainly we have to think about the staff – when we come back the racing will still be going on in Hong Kong.”

The idea of Golden Sixty travelling has seemed like a pipe dream throughout Hong Kong’s fifth Covid-19 wave but with things improving, the prospect of the champion miler flying the Bauhinia flag abroad remains alive.

“We will keep him fit and one barrier trial before we travel will be enough – he’s an easy training horse,” Lui said.

Restrictions eased again

The Jockey Club has again eased restrictions on its riders, moving to level three protocols as the Covid-19 situation improves in Hong Kong and the city opens up.

While jockeys are still under tight controls, they can mix in groups of up to four people – plus kids – and things like boat trips, attending cinemas and theme parks and playing golf and other sports are back on the table, as well as having lunch and dinner with friends outside the racing bubble.

After months of suffocating restrictions that have dented morale, things are slowly starting to look up for Hong Kong racing’s key participants.

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