You are currently viewing A new Cox Plate legend is born as James McDonald surges home on Romantic Warrior in photo finish in Damien Oliver’s final race

A new Cox Plate legend is born as James McDonald surges home on Romantic Warrior in photo finish in Damien Oliver’s final race

  • Post category:UK Racing News
  • Reading time:11 mins read


  • Hong Kong horse Romantic Warrior wins Cox Plate 
  • Surged to win at the end 
  • Pipped Mr Brightside and Alligator Blood 

James McDonald has claimed one of the most thrilling Cox Plate titles in history after lunging home on Danny Shum-trained champion Romantic Warrior.

McDonald, who backed up his win last year aboard Anamoe, Hong Kong’s premier middle-distance galloper surged on the line to win Australasia’s weight-for-age championship by a nose. 

It was a furious finish down the straight as Mr Brightside tried to hold out the late surge from Pre-face favourite Romantic Warrior and Alligator Blood.

It was a photo finish, but the Hong Kong product Romantic Warrior won by a nose. 

‘This means so much. I have so many faith in this horse and oh my god. I thought we got beat,’ an emotional McDonald said after the race.

‘When the camera didn’t follow me, and I just went… I can’t say what I said.

‘I can’t believe we won the Cox Plate.’

The final 200m of the Cox Plate was one of the most thrilling in history with Romantic Warrior winning a photo finish from Mr Brightside and Gai Waterhouse-trained Alligator Blood

Romantic Warrior lunges for the line in the tightest of finishes as jockey James McDonald made it back-to-back Cox Plate victories

Romantic Warrior lunges for the line in the tightest of finishes as jockey James McDonald made it back-to-back Cox Plate victories

James McDonald celebrates winning his second Cox Plate in a row after a last-second lunge to pip Mr Brightside at the line

James McDonald celebrates winning his second Cox Plate in a row after a last-second lunge to pip Mr Brightside at the line

Shum was just as emotional on the sideline, thanking all of his connections in Australia and Hong Kong.

‘I am very happy, I don’t know how to tell you how happy ament. I am very, very happy,’ he said.

‘It will be really big for the town, I want to thank Peter, James McDonald, all the team, all the Hong Kong fans, my wife Kristy and my son Aaron.

‘I was confident he would run a strong race.’

It was the 22nd and final Cox Plate for veteran jockey Damien Oliver who finished fourth on outsider Duais.

Veteran racecaller Bruce McAvaney said that McDonald’s win on Romantic Warrior was a changing of the guard.

‘I feel like the baton has been passed from Damien,’ he said.

‘Oliver to James McDonald today in many ways. Olly is the all-time great, we know that, but in many ways I think baton gets changed today, on the day that Olly rides in his 22nd Cox Plate and final Cox Plate, we, I think, recognise a genius here.’

Opie Bosson riding Imperatriz winning Race 8, the Ladbrokes Manikato Stakes, during Melbourne Racing at Moonee Valley Racecourse

Opie Bosson riding Imperatriz winning Race 8, the Ladbrokes Manikato Stakes, during Melbourne Racing at Moonee Valley Racecourse

Trainers Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott watch intently during race three at Mooney Valley

Trainers Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott watch intently during race three at Mooney Valley 

A bumper crowd turned out for the Cox Plate and full day of racing at Mooney Valley Racecourse

A bumper crowd turned out for the Cox Plate and full day of racing at Mooney Valley Racecourse

Trainer Mitchell Freedman poses with his daughter after Skybird won the 3 Point Motors Fillies Classic

Trainer Mitchell Freedman poses with his daughter after Skybird won the 3 Point Motors Fillies Classic

It was another big weekend at Moonee Valley, with the 140th running of the Gold Cup taking place on Friday night, and the Manikato Stakes running directly before the Cox Plate.

Short-priced favourite Imperatriz claimed the $2 million Manikato Stakes with a dominant performance for trainer Mark Walker and jockey Opie Bosson.

The star Kiwi mare led from start to finish in her seventh Group 1 triumph, with I Am Me and Uncommon James filling the minor placings.

2023 COX PLATE RESULTS

  • 1st – Romantic Warrior
  • 2nd – Mr Brightside
  • 3rd – Alligator Blood
  • 4th – Duais
  • 5th – Gold Trip
  • 6th – Zaaki
  • 7th – Fangirl
  • 8th – Militarize
  • 9th – Victoria Road
  • 10th – My Oberon
  • 11th – Pinstriped
  • 12th – King Colorado



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