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Ad Romantic Warrior, ridden by James McDonald, worked strongly with Hong Kong stablemate, Romantic Charm. (George Sal/Racing Photos)

Romantic Warrior has first look at Flemington

2 October 2023 Written by Danny Matthews - Racing & Sports

James McDonald excited for Hong Kong star’s Australian debut at Flemington after a strong showing early Sunday morning.

James McDonald flew into Melbourne on Saturday night and the thought of a sunrise spin around Flemington aboard headline Hong Kong galloper Romantic Warrior saw him wake early even without the need of an alarm.

That excitement was vindicated when the gallop confirmed for him that despite having 'a few more lengths to improve' before the ultimate aim of the Group 1 WS Cox Plate (2040m) later this month, the five-year-old still has a few lengths on his rivals in the Group 1 TAB Turnbull Stakes (2000m) at Flemington on Saturday.

Three times has McDonald partnered with Romantic Warrior, each of which delivering victories at the highest level in Hong Kong with the latest the Group 1 Champions & Chapter Cup over 2400-metres at Sha Tin in May.

"He worked beautifully," McDonald said after the 1200-metre gallop with stablemate Romantic Charm.

"He got on the right leg, he was lovely and balanced, and he will improve immensely from today."

McDonald confirmed that the open spaces and long straight of Flemington would suit the Danny Shum-trained gelding.

Romantic Warrior and James McDonald return after the Hong Kong gallopers first looks at Flemington. (George Sal/Racing Photos)

"He'll love it," he added.

"I think he's a damn good horse and I wish he'd stay on for the Champions Stakes."

"In Hong Kong I was basically getting on him at the peak of his powers and this was obviously an exercise gallop.

"He's got improvement to come with his ultimate goal being a month away."

The star jockey has had his own task of late to recover from a foot injury but, like the international raider also needing to overcome similar recent challenges, the 31-year-old has returned in good health.

"This lead-up run will be very important for him as it was well documented that he missed the trial (in Hong Kong) because of the typhoon which put him back a stride but good horses do good things and he's one of them," McDonald said.

McDonald was all smiles facing the media. (George Sal/Racing Photos)

"Two weeks ago, I was a bit concerned with the stressful procedures he had to go through – and that is not easy for any horse – but they've reported that he is back on his tucker and hasn't left an oat.

"I would have felt fatigue in his action this morning but he was very enthusiastic."

Romantic Warrior is the pre-nominations $2 favourite for the Turnbull Stakes with UK-visitor West Wind Blows – who also galloped at Flemington - on the second line of betting at $5 and recent Group 1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) winner Alligator Blood at $6.

"He'll be hard to beat," McDonald said.

"He's an absolute star of a racehorse and he gives me a hell of a thrill on a racecourse.

"Against the Japanese in Hong Kong he didn't just beat them, he beat them by a significant margin not just once but twice.

"He's outstanding."

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