Tuesday, 22 May 2012
: Hong Kong has known only one Triple Crown winner but Ambitious Dragon will attempt to re-write that record when he lines up for the Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup at Sha Tin on Sunday.
| Ambitious Dragon|
Photo by HKJC
Tony Millard's charge took the first two legs of the Triple Crown in scintillating style as he comfortably swept aside high-class opponents to win the Stewards' Cup (1600m) in January and February's Citibank Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m).
Now the five-time G1/HKG1 winner and reigning Horse of the Year faces a step into the unknown as he takes on five rivals over 2400m, in an attempt to become only the second HK Triple Crown winner, 18 years after River Verdon in 1994 became the first. Ambitious Dragon
heads towards his date with history having tasted defeat in his last two starts.
Off colour when seventh in the G1 Dubai Duty Free at Meydan on 31 March, the five-year-old then came home to finish fourth behind Xtension in the G1 BMW Champions Mile on 6 May.
Millard is pleased with the star's condition since that race.
“I'm particularly happy with him,” said Millard. “He has come out of that last race really well - he's come out fresh after that and if anything I think he's come on.
"He had a nice workout yesterday (Monday) and I was pleased with that - I'm perfectly happy with his condition.”
Given his brilliance at shorter distances and having never faced the 2400m before, a question mark hangs over Ambitious Dragon
regarding the extent of his stamina, and the answer to that question will not be known until Sunday.
“One would think that the 2400m might be a concern because he has an exceptional amount of speed but when you look at his pedigree, you might actually wonder how he's got so much speed,” observed Millard.
“He's out of an Oregon mare that went two miles, and she in turn is out of a Noble Bijou mare that also went two miles and produced a stakes winner over 2400m, and Noble Bijou is by Vaguely Noble – there's a lot of stamina in there.
“So pedigree-wise, on his female line, you wouldn't worry with him. He's a champion and champions just have that toe.
"Maybe it turns out that he doesn't stay, we just can't be sure. He's so good over a variety of distances already that you think can he really have a range of distances stretching 1000m from 1400m to 2400m?
"I wouldn't be surprised if he does stay because he's a relaxed horse and that's the type of horse you need in a staying race.”Ambitious Dragon
's opponents include the John Moore-trained Dominant
who broke his Hong Kong duck with an impressive win at the course and distance in the HKG3 Queen Mother Memorial Cup on 6 May, in which he defeated the re-opposing Liberator
and Super Pistachio
The field also includes the Moore-trained Irian
, runner-up in the past two renewals of the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Cup (2000m), and the Peter Ho-trained Mr Medici
, winner of this race in 2010 and runner-up last year.
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