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Romantic Warrior Claims 1st Yasuda Kinen Win by a Hong Kong Horse in 18 Years

A burst of speed over the final 200 meters carried Romantic Warrior to a half-length victory over Namur in the 74th running of the Yasuda Kinen.

Hong Kong's Romantic Warrior delivered a powerful performance as race favorite to triumph in the Yasuda Kinen on Sunday, June 2 at Tokyo Racecourse. 

As a result, he extended his Grade 1 winning streak to five. And it was his eighth victory overall at this level.

Romantic Warrior's G1 resume includes three consecutive Queen Elizabeth II Cup (2,000 meters) victories from 2022-24. It also features back-to-back Hong Kong Cup (2,000 meters) titles in 2022 and 2023, the Cox Plate (2,040 meters) in 2023 and the Hong Kong Gold Cup (2,000 meters) in 2024. 

The Acclamation progeny becomes the fourth foreign winner of the 1,600-meter Yasuda Kinen following Heart Lake (1995) and Hong Kong's Fairy King Prawn (2000) and Bullish Luck (2006).

For trainer Chap Shing Shum and jockey James McDonald, the Yasuda Kinen victory is the first win in Japan for both of them. It's also Romantic Warrior's first G1 win in a mile race. 

The 74th running of Yasuda Kinen began with Dobune (Yuji Hishida's ride) taking the leading spot and Win Carnelian (Kosei Miura) pressing the pace on the outside. 

Yasuda Kinen
Romantic Warrior closes in on a victory in the 74th Yasuda Kinen. (KYODO)

Romantic Warrior, breaking from stall seven, was settled comfortably in sixth and two-wide. The multiple G1 champion struggled briefly for room in the early stretch.

But once a clear path opened in front of him around 300 meters out, the son of Acclamation found his stride. He took command at the 200-meter pole and stormed home with incredible speed, holding off fast-closing runner-up Namur (Yutaka Take) by a half-length.

Romantic Warrior completed the 18-horse race in 1 minute, 32.3 seconds. (Watch the race on the JRA's YouTube channel.)

Reactions to Romantic Warrior's Yasuda Kinen Win

"It was a great moment [to win this race]," winning owner Pak Fai Lau commented. "I had been working on finding the right horse to bring here to race in Japan so it was really exciting and a happy moment."

He added, "I have had connections with Japan both in business and also within the racing circle and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to race here this time. The racing track here is wide and very fair and beautiful." 

Yasuda Kinen
Winning jockey James McDonald (©SANKEI)

New Zealand-born jockey McDonald said, "I'm just extremely proud, very honored to be traveling with such a good horse and to showcase him to such passionate racing fans. The whole team had done a very, very good job."

McDonald added, "Once he hit the front with 200 meters to run, it was going to have to be a good horse to go past him because there's not many who can go past him when he's in full flight with a furlong to go. He's a proven champion, he's won one of the toughest races in Australia in the Cox Plate, he's won two Hong Kong Cups taking on strong opposition and now has come to Japan and won a mile race, a little bit shorter than his best distance.

"[Romantic Warrior] always rises to the occasion and that's the beauty of this horse. He's got a heart of a lion and tremendous ability."

Yasuda Kinen
The 74th running of the Yasuda Kinen. (©SANKEI)

Other Challengers in the Yasuda Kinen

Namur broke nicely and unrushed but not too far behind the mid-field group, shifted out and circled wide to secure a clear path on the outside into the straight. 

She unleashed a fine turn of speed, the fastest over the last three furlongs (32.9 seconds), to reach contention outside Soul Rush (Joao Moreira) with a furlong to go. Namur then edged Soul Rush by a nose to place second.

Second favorite Soul Rush sat in mid-division keeping an eye on the eventual winner, a few lengths in front. 

Gradually picking up speed over the giving ground with about 300 meters to go, the son of Rulership closed in impressively. But he was unable to match the winner and was nosed out at the wire by Namur and finished third.

Gaia Force (Yoshihito Nagaoka) took fourth, one length behind Soul Rush. Serifos (Yuga Kawada) was fifth, a further one-half length adrift.

Also in the Yasuda Kinen, eighth pick Voyage Bubble (Zachary Purton), the other Hong Kong entrant in the race, broke well and traveled on the heels of the eventual winner, running near the seventh position. 

In a good striking position, the 2024 G1 Stewards' Cup champion shifted to an outer path entering the lane and remained a factor. But Voyage Bubble ran out of steam in the last 300 meters and faded to 17th.

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A Look Ahead

The Japan Racing Association's next G1 race is the Takarazuka Kinen on June 25 at Kyoto Racecourse. 

Read the full report, including details on each of the Yasuda Kinen entrants, on JRA News.

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Author: JRA News

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