The 124-rated international was poor by his lofty standards first up in the Turnbull Stakes at Flemington, but he did have genuine excuses, and both jockey James McDonald and trainer Danny Shum were keen he had made the necessary improvement to figure in the finish at his next outing. They were right. Romantic Warrior was crunched in betting late on the World Pool, starting $2.80 on the tote and $3.60 fixed, and found the perfect spot in running perched fourth, one off the fence. It was almost a carbon copy ride to the one James McDonald gave Anamoe 12 months ago in the race, but the Hong Kong champ had to work much harder in the final 100 metres to secure victory. Alligator Blood shot for the lead on the home turn, but Mr Brightside and Romantic Warrior soon passed him, one on the fence and one in lane six, creating the best Ladbrokes Cox Plate finish in the last decade. The drama was intensified by the fact team Hayes thought they had won, as did much of the crowd, while Danny Shum celebrated on the winning post as they passed him, thinking he had indeed won. Race caller Matt Hill soon announced Romantic Warrior had gotten the photo – illation for Hong Kong, dismay for Lindsay Park. “I’m very happy. I don’t know how to tell you how happy I am!” trainer Danny Shum said post-race. Jockey James McDonald, who won his second consecutive Ladbrokes Cox Plate, echoed the excitement of Shum, but didn’t share his same certainty on the finish line. “Oh my god, I thought I got beat”, McDonald said. “I can’t believe we’ve won the Cox Plate. It means so much, I’ve had so much to do with him. I’ve been singing his praises in how much he’s improved.” In winning the 2023 Ladbrokes Cox Plate, Romantic Warrior becomes the fifth international to win the race, following Adelaide 2014, Lys Gracieux 2019, Sir Dragonet 2020 and State Of Rest 2021.