February 9, 2023

Romantic Warrior faces Japanese juggernaut in Hong Kong Cup

Romantic Warrior captures the QEII Cup (Photo by Hong Kong Jockey Club)

Japan has won three straight runnings of the Hong Kong Cup (G1), and five of the past seven. That total could increase with a formidable five-strong team amassing at Sha Tin Sunday. But the home defense is led by the exceptional Romantic Warrior, who brings an 8-for-9 career record into the lucrative Hong Kong International Races program. The single European hope is furnished by Aidan O’Brien, Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) veteran Order of Australia on the stretch-out.

Check out all the previews of the Hong Kong International Races here

Hong Kong Cup (G1) – Race 8 (3:40 a.m. ET)

Three of the Japanese contenders have forward running styles, but Panthalassa is the dedicated free-wheeler who wants to go. Jack d’Or proved that he could stalk and pounce when collaring Panthalassa two back in the Sapporo Kinen (G2), while Lei Papale’s opportunistic wire job in the 2021 Osaka Hai (G1) remains an outlier for the typical pace-tracker.

Panthalassa is trained by Yoshito Yahagi, who won last year’s Hong Kong Cup with Breeders’ Cup champ Loves Only You. Taking his game on the road for the Mar. 26 Dubai Turf (G1) on World Cup night, Panthalassa just lasted for a dead-heat win shared with Lord North. Although winless in his three ensuing starts back home, he has been a close second in the Aug. 21 Sapporo Kinen and Tenno Sho Autumn (G1), both at this about 1 1/4-mile trip. The son of Lord Kanaloa, himself a two-time Hong Kong Sprint (G1) star, might find it less daunting to hang on at Sha Tin.

Bet on TwinSpires.com: How to play the four Hong Kong International Races

Jack d’Or had success as a pacesetter, most notably when capping a five-race winning spree in the Mar. 13 Kinko Sho (G2). But after wilting to fifth in the Apr. 3 renewal of the Osaka Hai, he revised his tactics to beat Panthalassa at Sapporo. Jack d’Or is also coming off the Tenno Sho Autumn, where he checked in fourth, and now gets a rider switch to Yutaka Take. Sire Maurice captured this race in 2016, an encore following his Hong Kong Mile (G1) heroics in 2015.

Another exiting the Tenno Sho Autumn is Geoglyph, a non-threatening ninth at Tokyo. But the sophomore had scored his signature win in his only other try at the trip, the Apr. 17 Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) (G1), over future Tenno Sho victor Equinox. William Buick picks up the mount.

Danon the Kid, most recently runner-up in the Mile Championship (G1) at Hanshin, returns to the distance of his marquee win in the 2020 Hopeful (G1) as a juvenile. The aforementioned Lei Papale was a troubled sixth in last December’s Hong Kong Cup – the only time she’s missed the exacta at this trip. The Deep Impact mare figures to move forward from her comeback fourth in the Oct. 9 Mainichi Okan (G2). Another plus is the presence of Joao Moreira in the saddle.

Hong Kong champion Romantic Warrior is also forecast to improve, though, for his tune-up in the Nov. 20 Jockey Club Cup (G2). The Danny Shum pupil had not raced since his sensational spring campaign, highlighted by victories in two-thirds of the Four-Year-Old Series – the Hong Kong Classic Mile and Hong Kong Derby – and the Apr. 24 Queen Elizabeth II Cup (G1). Yet his class shone through off the layoff, and a fitter Romantic Warrior will be tough to beat here. His only career loss was arguably a function of a poor draw, and post 7 eliminates that worry for the Cup.

Order of Australia has been thereabouts in a series of mile majors since his shocking upset of the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Mile, and he wasn’t beaten far in sixth in the Nov. 5 edition at Keeneland. The son of Australia can look a bit one-paced, and earlier in his career, he was tried over further. Indeed, the Ballydoyle stalwart was fourth in the 2020 Irish Derby (G1), and seventh in the pandemic-delayed Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) (G1), before winning an about 1 5/16-mile affair at Dundalk. He’ll need to minimize ground loss from post 11.

The ex-Ballydoyle Russian Emperor is the most intriguing of the locals aside from Romantic Warrior. The blueblood son of Galileo and Atlantic Jewel landed the 2020 Hampton Court (G3) at Royal Ascot, but nevertheless got sold to Hong Kong and gelded. Third in this race last December, Russian Emperor capitalized on yielding ground to stun the Feb. 20 Hong Kong Gold Cup (G1), leaving Golden Sixty back in third. He could prefer even longer at this stage, as evidenced by his fifth to Romantic Warrior in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup, and next-out coup in the about 1 1/2-mile Champions & Chater Cup (G1). Russian Emperor hasn’t shown much in his two appearances this term, but he tends to take time to round into form for prolific jockey-turned-trainer Douglas Whyte.

Tourbillon Diamond, second to Romantic Warrior in both the Queen Elizabeth II Cup and Jockey Club Cup, wasn’t helped by drawing post 12. Ka Ying Star was fourth in the Jockey Club Cup, where Money Catcher tired to fifth, and Savvy Nine didn’t factor in eighth.