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Ambitious Dragon wins Citibank HK Gold Cup

Douglas Whyte punches the air as Ambitious Dragon wins at Sha Tin

  PICTURE: Hong Kong Jockey Club  

Ambitious Dragon burns rivals in HK Gold Cup

Report: Hong Kong, Sunday

Sha Tin: Citibank Hong Kong Gold Cup (Group 1) 1m2f, turf, 3yo+

A DISTINCT sense of déjà-vu surrounded the latest Group 1 victory by Ambitious Dragon (Tony Millard/Douglas Whyte) as Hong Kong’s best thoroughbred had little difficulty in adding the Citibank Hong Kong Gold Cup to his expanding resume.

In what amounted to an uncanny rerun of his Stewards Cup triumph last month, Ambitious Dragon led home Xtension by a length and a quarter at the line - exactly the same margin of victory from the same horse in the first leg of the Triple Crown - with California Memory again third.   

Neither was the manner of victory in Sunday’s second leg much different to that achieved four weeks earlier.

Whyte was again content to settle the five-year-old champion in midfield before leisurely ambling to the front off the home turn. One or two reminders from the South African jockey then helped focus the mind of the Horse of the Year when the racewas already won inside the final furlong. Overall, it was a very professional and polished performance.

Connections can now happily move on from whatever went wrong in the run-up to the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Cup in December when Ambitious Dragon ran a below-par fourth to California Memory. On this evidence, the Pins gelding has no peers on his home turf between 8f and 10f.

“I must admit, it felt better than the Stewards’ Cup,” Whytesaid post-race. “This was his acid test at the ten furlongs to see if he had come back to what he is.”

“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.”

Where exactly Ambitious Dragon might race for his next assignment, however, has yet to be decided with owner Johnson Lam and trainer Millard mulling upcoming options in the Emirates that include the Dubai Duty Free or possibly the Dubai World Cup itself.

“We need to see how the horse pulls up first,” remarked Millard, “he’s so versatile that there are different races to consider.”

The Audemars Piguet QEII late in April at Sha Tin, which Ambitious Dragon won last year, seems the most locked-in consideration for the foreseeable future.

But, intriguingly, thefinal leg of the Triple Crown, the Champions & Chater Cup over 1m4f in May is also being mooted as a viable late-season target now that the first two trophies are on the mantelpiece.

As with most racing jurisdictions nowadays,Triple Crown sweeps in Hong Kong are rare indeed.  The feat has only been achieved once (River Verdon in 1993/94) and, as such, its lure and historical significance may make it difficult to pass up - although Whyte is opposed to the idea. 

“I think he is too brilliant for that distance,” the South African jockey reasoned. “Now that he is back to his best you just want to wrap him in cotton wool and look after him as long as you can.” 

Having run closest to Ambitious Dragon for the third time in a Group 1, Xtension’s trainer John Moore probably hopes Millard and team will swerve the Dubai Duty Free because Xtension certainly seems to be heading to Meydan.

“He got held up at a crucial stage [in the straight] which didn’t help our cause. But it was a good effort and I’m pleased with that. It was a nice trial for Dubai,” Moore said.      

The Duty Free also beckons for California Memory with trainer Tony Cruz keen to take up an invite.

Also on Sunday

The remorseless Whyte left Sha Tin with four winners in total. The remaining three came courtesy of appropriately titled Racing Legend (David Hall), Won Ton King Prawn (Millard) and the also quite fittingly named Moneymaker (John Size).    

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