Ambitious Dragon: bids to become second horse to win HK Triple CrownPICTURE: SK Hon
Classy Dragon bids to create history at Sha Tin
Preview: Hong Kong, Sunday, 9.05am BST
Sha Tin: Standard Chartered Champions & Chater (HKGr 1) 1m4f, turf, 3yo+
AMBITIOUS DRAGON will become the first horse to win Hong Kong's Triple Crown since 1994 if he can lift the Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Trainer Tony Millard has called upon Italian jockey Umberto Rispoli to ride the five-year-old champion for the first time and victory should ensure a second successive Horse of the Year title.
Somewhat disappointingly, Ambitious Dragon has been a beaten favourite in his three international assignments this term at home and abroad, but proved vastly superior to local opposition in the first two legs of the Triple Crown, the Stewards' Cup over a mile and the Hong Kong Gold Cup over 1m2f.
If he is to emulate the deeds of River Verdon, the only horse to produce a clean sweep of all the constituent legs, the New Zealand-bred son of Pins will net owner Johnson Lam a bonus of HK$5 million (£410,000) in addition to the £320,000 first prize.
But now he ventures into the unknown over 1m4f, few seem certain that Ambitious Dragon he will strongly see out the distance - histrainer included.
"Maybe it turns out that he doesn't stay, we just can't be sure," Millard admitted, "but it's something we just feel we have to try because the horse remains in terrific shape. He came out of his last start in the Champions Mile a few weeks ago very well."
"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. On his female line, there is a lot of stamina there to give you hope that he will last the trip.
"He's a champion and champions just have that class and it can come through over a range of distances. 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."
Just six runners will face the starter and the chief rival to Ambitious Dragon is likely to be British import
The improving Dominant has 18lb to bridge with the likely favourite on official ratings on Sunday but trainer Moore believes his recruit from the Roger Varian stable is headed for the top.
"He's taken some time to settle in to his new environment but he's as fit and healthy as hands can make him at the moment and he's ready to run a big race. It was clear last time out that this is his ideal distance and he's the kind of horse that could run well in international Vase [also over 12f] next season," he said.
Moore is also represented by Irian, runner-up in the last two editions of the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Cup. Mr Medici, winner of this race in 2010, Super Pistachio and Liberator complete the sextet in the final Group 1 of the season.