The trainer of the Cox Plate favourite says his horse will not be fully fit for the race on Saturday, putting some of the blame on facilities at Werribee where internationals are required to quarantine.
Hong Kong superstar Romantic Warrior is only 90-95 per cent fit, according to trainer Danny Shum.
“I can’t say I’m happy, but this is the only facilities I can use,” Shum said.
“In Hong Kong we have a swimming pool, we have a walking machine, we’ve got barrier trials with local Hong Kong horses,” he said.
“But at least a swimming pool and a walking machine, if they could [have] provided that, it would have been great.
“I think he’d be better [if we had those options]. We can only hand walk for 30 minutes before we put the saddle on, [whereas] we could have had a walking machine for 15 minutes, that would have been a better warm-up for him.
“We’ve done the best [we can], hopefully God does the rest.”
Shum was candid leading into the Turnbull Stakes that Romantic Warrior was only 80-85 per cent fit heading into that race, having also dealt with issues regarding his feed. He finished fourth behind Gold Trip in the Turnbull Stakes as a short-priced favourite.
Two track gallops at Moonee Valley and one at Werribee under James McDonald have pleased Shum, but he said the Cox Plate favourite was still a touch shy of 100 per cent fit.
“I give him 90-95 per cent fit,” Shum said.
“He hadn’t raced for four and a half months before the Turnbull Stakes.
“Every day he’s better. He’s eating well, galloping good, especially his three gallops – two at Moonee Valley and one at Werribee with James McDonald on board. He’s happy, he handled the Moonee Valley sharp turn smoothly. Everything is good.”
Racing Victoria defended Werribee, which provided quarantine for the 2021 Cox Plate winner State Of Rest and last week’s Caulfield Cup runner-up West Wind Blows, among others.
“The Werribee Racing Club have done an excellent job providing two training tracks in great condition for our visiting international horses,” a Racing Victoria spokesperson said.
“We have seen the visiting international horses perform well out of the facility already this spring racing carnival, and we look forward to that continuing this weekend and beyond.
“Any additional facilities would need to be replicated across three quarantine yards. That’s a significant investment that would be hard to justify at this time given local industry needs.”
Racing Victoria has already purchased a large parcel of land near Oaklands Junction which is touted as the future gateway to the carnival for the international horses. The cost of a new fully filtered equine swimming pool sits between $1.5 million and $2 million.
Romantic Warrior drew barrier seven in a field of 12 for Saturday’s Cox Plate, and Shum said he was confident the horse could still win the race.
“If we can settle, get some cover, he will hit the line strong,” Shum said.
“We’ve handled the sharp turn. He’s got a big chance to win the Cox Plate, yes.
“I think he should be the favourite. According to his form, he should be the favourite, yes.”
Chris Waller brought Fangirl (barrier nine) and Militarize (barrier three) to the Valley’s Breakfast with the Stars on Tuesday for a look around the track, with neither horse there to break records.
Alligator Blood (barrier five) also zipped around the circuit, while Damien Oliver had his first sit on Duais (barrier one) ahead of his final time riding in a Cox Plate.
Mr Brightside drew barrier two for Lindsay Park, which pleased co-trainer Ben Hayes.
“We wanted him to draw an inside draw. Lucky enough drew outside early, and we were able to draw barrier two,” Hayes said.
“It’s the same barrier he won the All-Star Mile from. He’s got a great record at the Valley.
“One of the question marks is people asking whether he runs 2000 metres. I think barrier two gives him the option to do that. He should have a nice soft run and all I can say, the horse is in fantastic order, his work this morning at the farm was excellent, and he’s got a real chance.
“The stable is very confident.”
Gold Trip has drawn barrier eight, while Aidan O’Brien’s Victoria Road will jump from gate six. Annabel Neasham will saddle up Zaaki (barrier 12) and My Oberon (barrier four), with Jamie Mott picking up the late ride on My Oberon after Johnny Allen copped a suspension at Warrnambool on Monday.
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