Liberator sees off Ambitious Dragon to win Group 1 at Sha Tin on SundayPICTURE: Hong Kong Jockey Club
Liberator ends Ambitious Dragon's triple crown bid
Report: Hong Kong, Sunday
Sha Tin: The Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (HKGr. 1) 1m4f, turf, 3yo+
THE LENGTHY search for a triple crown winner in Hong Kong continues after Liberator (David Ferraris/Weichong Marwing) sprang something of a surprise by denying the history chasing Ambitious Dragon in the stayers' championship on Sunday.
Six went to post for the Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup, with Ambitious Dragon starting a 6-4 second choice behind the 11-10 favourite Dominant.
Liberator, however, was the fourth pick in the betting at around 12-1, having run second to Dominant over the course and distance in the Queen Mother Memorial Cup on his most recent start.
An Australian-bred graduate of the Hong Kong International Sale, Liberator appeared to be up against it on official ratings - he was 30lb 'wrong' with Ambitious Dragon at level weights - but his undoubted staying prowess and a fine tactical ride from Marwing proved decisive.
As predicted, the tempo was funereal with sections in the middle of the race well over a second slower than normal and this worked in favour of Liberator, who kicked for home before the turn when he was some five lengths in front of Umberto Rispoli, whose instructions were to ride Ambitious Dragon from the rear.
Liberator still held a break at the furlong pole as 'The Dragon' drew closer with Dominant in close attendance - but they could get any closer and, if anything, the winner was pulling away again at the line to record a length and a half margin of victory.
"He's improvedso much and the race just panned out so well for him because if he sits on the outside of a horse he's at his best," trainer Ferraris said.
"If he can sit on its girths and travel comfortably, he's hard to run down. I knew when he kicked hard like that the rest would have to pick up their feet because he's an out-and-out stayer. It was a very good move of Weichong's because if they'd kept going slow they'd have outsprinted us.
"He will have a well-earned rest now and we will aim for the Hong Kong Vase [over the same distance] in December."
Ambitious Dragon got closest to the first sweep of the triple crown in 18 years leaving trainer Tony Millardproud of the achievement.
"It was a very good run and I'm very happy with him," he said.
"Nobody could say that he did not stay the trip as his final section was the fastest of all. He just got foundout by a top class ride from Marwing."
Italian jockey Rispoli, who flew in for the meeting from France, was unseated from Lucky Record in the following race as Can Do broke down and cannoned through the field, unshipping his jockey Douglas Whyte in the process.
Rispoli left the track with a wrist injury while Whyte was stood down from his remaining rides but will resume at Happy Valley on Wednesday.