Dragon emphatic in Hong Kong Gold Cup
27th Feb 2012
Ambitious Dragon (NZ) (Pins) enhanced his champion status with a stellar victory in the HK-1 Citibank Hong Kong Gold Cup (Triple Crown 2nd Leg) on Sunday, a performance that jockey Douglas Whyte described as “better” than his recent breathtaking triumph over a mile in the HK-1 Stewards’ Cup (Triple Crown 1st Leg).
|Ambitious Dragon (NZ) with Douglas Whyte|
The Tony Millard-trained star proved that he is equally outstanding at 2000m as he brushed aside a top-class field that once again included the horse regarded as his biggest rival, the Tony Cruz-trained California Memory (Highest Honor).
Whyte’s confidence was such that he sat motionless aboard the Hong Kong Horse of the Year until 250m from home when a shake of the reins elicited a burst of acceleration that put daylight between Ambitious Dragon (NZ) and his nine opponents.
California Memory, seeking back-to-back wins in the race, chased his nemesis down the home straight but had to settle for third place, a length and a half back, as the private tussle between the two swung three to one in favour of the Millard runner. The John Moore-trained Xtension (Xaar), who had split the pair in the Stewards’ Cup, short-headed California Memory for the runner-up berth as the comfortable winner stopped the clock at 2m 02.88s.
“I must admit, it felt better than the Stewards’ Cup – he’s come back, for sure,” said Whyte. “This was his acid test at the 10 furlongs to see if he had come back to what he is and he certainly gave me every indication today that Ambitious Dragon is back.
“I must say, he does make my job a lot easier because you can ride this horse with a lot of confidence and you can put him where you want to be.”
Ambitious Dragon (NZ) secures a HK$2 million bonus for winning the first two legs of the Hong Kong Triple Crown. Only the 2400m HK-1 Champions & Chater Cup in May stands between the five-year-old and a total HK$5 million Triple Crown bonus.
“I personally would not like to see the horse going (2400m),” opined Whyte. “I think he’s too brilliant for that distance, and, now that he’s back to his best, you just want to wrap him in cotton wool and look after him as long as you can. These kinds of horses are few and far between and when you’ve got one, you do everything you can and hold on to them with both hands.”
Closer at hand is the Dubai World Cup meeting at the end of March. Ambitious Dragon (NZ) is among the nominees for both the Group One Dubai World Cup (Tapeta) and the Group One Dubai Duty Free (Turf).
“Next week we will look at where we go next; we need to see how the horse pulls up and we’ll discuss with Johnson (Lam) before we decide. He’s so versatile that there are different races to consider,” said Millard.
Johnson Lam was delighted to see the Pins gelding land his fifth top-level success but is cautious about talk of Dubai. The owner, who will follow his trainer’s lead regarding the horse’s post race wellbeing, stated that he is of the opinion that Dubai can take a lot out of any horse and is therefore a difficult assignment.
Owned by Johnson Lam and selected by Kiwi Bloodstock Agent Bruce Perry, Ambitious Dragon (NZ) has won 10 of his 17 starts and has amassed earnings of HK$34,941,600.
Bred in New Zealand by Pat Lowry, Ambitious Dragon is from the Oregon mare Golden Gamble (NZ) and sold by Bruce Perry Bloodstock.
HKJCBack to News