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Superstar jockey McDonald to join Hong Kong roster on short-term contract

James McDonald will reunite with Romantic Warrior earlier than anticipated after the Jockey Club confirmed the superstar rider has agreed to join the Hong Kong jockey ranks on a short-term contract.

McDonald, who partnered Romantic Warrior to his historic Group One Cox Plate (2,040m) victory last month, begins his five-week stint in the city on November 23.

“I can’t wait. I was thrilled the Jockey Club reached out, especially with Romantic Warrior getting ready for his biggest challenge of the year,” said McDonald ahead of what will be his longest stay in Hong Kong.

McDonald, whose short-term contract runs until January 1, will be able to join forces with Romantic Warrior in the two weeks leading up to their Group One Hong Kong Cup (2,000m) defence.

“It gives me the opportunity to trial him. I can come up earlier and do a few gallops on him leading into the Hong Kong Cup. The timing was excellent,” McDonald said.

After steering Romantic Warrior to an emphatic win in last year’s Hong Kong Cup, the pair went on to triumph in April’s Group One QE II Cup (2,000m).

Subsequently beaten a neck in the Group One Champions & Chater Cup (2,400m) with Zac Purton in the saddle, Romantic Warrior once again had the assistance of McDonald to finish fourth in the Group One Turnbull Stakes (2,000m) before clinching a dramatic Cox Plate.

“I love him. He’s a ripping horse and I don’t know what it is, but I’ve got a real soft spot for him,” McDonald said. “He’s an absolute dude to ride. He wears his heart on his sleeve and gives his absolute all every time.

“I’ve had five rides and four wins on him so I’ve been pretty lucky, but it’s going to be one hell of a Hong Kong Cup field and hopefully he can defend his title.”

On Monday, McDonald was named among the cast of overseas stars set to lock horns in the Longines International Jockeys’ Championship (IJC) on December 6, and the rider is looking forward to the hot competition.

“The Hong Kong Jockey Club put on a great show and that week is brilliant to be a part of,” McDonald said.

“Whenever you get an opportunity to compete in the IJC, as well as the international meeting, you jump at it.”

McDonald arrives in Hong Kong riding the crest of a wave following a successful spring in Australia, where he added another five Group One wins to his illustrious CV.

“It was an incredible carnival. I couldn’t have hoped for any more, to be honest,” McDonald said.

“It was fantastic, a hell of a ride and a great month down in Melbourne. Now, I’m really looking forward to joining the Hong Kong jockey ranks for a short time.”

Meanwhile, Romantic Warrior was seen sauntering back to Danny Shum Chap-shing’s stable on Tuesday morning following the end of his quarantine period, while Golden Sixty limbered up for his Group One Hong Kong Mile assignment with a barrier trial at Sha Tin.

Trainer Francis Lui Kin-wai has opted to send the eight-year-old to December’s international meeting first up, and regular rider Vincent Ho Chak-yiu was pleased with Golden Sixty’s 1,200m dirt heat.

“He still feels young, competitive and when I ask him to pick up there is no turbo lag, it’s an instant reaction. It’s so good,” said Ho, who returns from his eight-meeting suspension with seven rides at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.

Elsewhere, Luke Currie has been granted permission to ride Munhamek in the Group One Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes (1,400m) at Caulfield this Saturday.


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