2024 Yasuda Kinen: Group 1 Review

Track: Tokyo Racecourse
Distance: 1600m
Value: ¥388,800,000 (about US$2.75million)

All eyes were on the race favourite Romantic Warrior and James McDonald and Hong Kong’s great globetrotter and his iceman rider did not disappoint.

Romantic Warrior came into this race with four straight Group 1 wins and McDonald rode with supreme confidence, speering straight into a prominent spot, ensuring he wasn’t stuck behind a slow horse late.

There were a few jockeys that wanted Romantic Warriors back though: second favourite Soul Rush (Joao Moreira) was well positioned, as to was Namur (Yutaka Take). It was those two that emerged as the main challengers but Romantic Warrior showed toughness, a trait that has become his trademark, to win by a half a length.

2024 Yasuda Kinen: Race Replay

ROMANTIC WARRIOR / G1 Yasuda Kinen // Tokyo /// 2024 //// Video by JRA

The Drought-Breaker

The 3.6 starting odds for Romantic Warrior might have seemed generous for a seven-time Group 1 winner and proven international traveller but locals were weary of the appalling record of Hong Kong horses in the Yasuda Kinen over recent years.

It had been 18 years since Bullish Luck won the Yasuda Kinen and since then the record read 23 starters for a solitary placing. The last horse to finish in the frame was Armada in 2008 and the average finishing position of the 16 runners since 2008 was tenth.

Romantic Warrior is a cut above those recent travellers in class, though, and joined Cape Of Good Hope (2004-05) and Aerovelocity (2014-15) as the only Hong Kong-trained horses to win two Group 1s in different countries during the same season. 

What They Said

Jockey James McDonald:

“I’m just extremely proud, very honoured to be travelling with such a good horse and to showcase him to such passionate racing fans. The whole team had done a very very good job. The race went perfectly as planned—we had a plan of being in the first half of the field—he enabled us to sit in a very comfortable position throughout.

“Before the start he was a bit fresh and above himself so I felt that he was definitely on the job and as always, he was there when I asked him for a supreme effort. Once he hit the front with 200 metres 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.

DANNY SHUM, JAMES McDONALD / G1 Yasuda Kinen // Tokyo /// 2024 //// Photo by Shuhei Okada

“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. He always rises to the occasion and that’s the beauty of this horse, he’s got a heart of a lion and tremendous ability.”

Fact File

Romantic Warrior’s half length winning margin was the largest of his five Group 1 wins this season after wins by a nose, short head, neck and neck.

Romantic Warrior was the first favourite to win the Yasuda Kinen since Maurice in 2015. 

What’s Next?

Danny Shum hasn’t missed many fights with Romantic Warrior but said his horse would forgo a shot at the G1 Takarazuka Kinen later this month in favour of a well-deserved rest.

Romantic Warrior’s season started in October with a fourth in the G1 Turnbull Stakes and continued through wins in the Cox Plate, Hong Kong Cup, Hong Kong Gold Cup and QEII Cup.

Owner Peter Lau said he was keen to return to Japan in the future, perhaps for a shot at going back-to-back in the Yasuda Kinen. 

Michael Cox is Editor of Idol Horse. A sports journalist with 19 years experience, Michael has a family background in harness racing in the Newcastle and Hunter Valley region of Australia. Best known for writing on Hong Kong racing, Michael’s previous publications include South China Morning Post, The Age, Sun Herald, Australian Associated Press, Asian Racing Report and Illawarra Mercury.

View all articles by Michael Cox.

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