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Glorious Days - 18/11/2012

Glorious Days: claimed the notable scalp of Ambitious Dragon at Sha Tin


Ambitious Dragon still has plenty to prove

WORLD CLASS: an analysis of the international scene according to Racing Post Ratings

A YEAR ago Ambitious Dragon looked set to take the racing world by storm. He won his first six starts in 2011, including three Group 1s, and posted the highest RPR in Hong Kong.

Then things started to go wrong. He suffered an odds-on defeat in the Jockey Club Mile before finishing only fourth in the Hong Kong Cup - a race where he was sent off favourite over Cirrus Des Aigles.

After that he regained form with two more top-level wins, but a series of problems in his preparation for the Dubai Duty Free saw him finish just seventh - again as clear favourite.

At home they still know him as the best horse in the country, but the reigning Hong Kong Horse of the Year is yet to make the waves he has promised at international level. Next month he has his chance to get the monkey off his back in the Hong Kong International Races.

At a domestic level he is superb; comfortably the best around at 1m and 1m2f. But after two flops on the big stage, this rare opportunity against some of the best horses in the world needs not to be another chance missed.

A specific destination is yet to be selected for Ambitious Dragon. It could be the Mile or it could be the Cup (1m2f). Connections will study the fields before committing on what could be a very important call.

Trainer Tony Millard made his ambitions for next month clear, telling the South China Morning Post: "The bottom line is we want to run in the easier race. We want to run where we can win."

Sunday at Sha Tin was trials day for the valuable Hong Kong International Races. The meeting usually turns up the best local talent and Ambitious Dragon was out to make his mark in the Jockey Club Mile.

Because the trials are Group 2s, top-level winners carry 5lb penalties, which often swings the results away from the best horses.

This was the case with Ambitious Dragon, who finished a length and a half second behind the freshly-blinkered Glorious Days. At the weights, the runner-up came out best with an RPR of 120 against a 118 for the winner.

It was not a perfect trial for Ambitious Dragon, who saw Glorious Days extending his advantage as they approached the line, but if he can bounce back to his best he undoubtedly holds major claims in either the Cup or the Mile next month.

On his previous start Ambitious Dragon posted an RPR of 124, when comfortably beating and giving 4lb to Glorious Days in a Group 3 handicap.

He's run to that sort of form on four separate occasions against the home contingent but he's yet to repeat it on the biggest stage.

If he does run up to his best, a mark of 124 would have been good enough to win most renewals of either the Cup or the Mile and it should be enough this time. But will he hit 124? Can he do it against the best?

In the other key trials, the class horses did manage to win despite the 5lb penalties.

California Memory (119+) won last year's Hong Kong Cup, beating Ambitious Dragon into fourth and Cirrus Des Aigles into fifth, and he looks set for another big run after landing the Jockey Club Cup.

He showed fantastic speed in the straight to get up on the line, having sat last for much of the race.

At his best he has a peak RPR of 121, which shouldn't be good enough to beat the top Europeans that frequent the International race day, but his speed is a real asset at Sha Tin where the run-in is a little over two furlongs.

The locals don't have a great record in the longer distance races at the meeting and last year's Cup victory was a rare treat from California Memory, but in the sprint division it is all Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong Sprint has been won by the home team for nine of the last ten years. Lucky Nine won it last year, and, just like California Memory, he came out and landed the key trial under a penalty on Sunday.

The Jockey Club Sprint saw Lucky Nine (121) earn the highest RPR of the week by humping his 5lb burden to a fast-diminishing head victory over Time After Time (115).

His trainer Caspar Fownes expected him to come on for the run, so he looks a safe bet to lead the home challenge against the international team, who should be headed by crack Aussie mare Sea Siren.

The field selections for the Hong Kong International Races will be announced later this week. Entries close today.



Name (country trained) Race Rating
1  Frankel (GB)
Queen Anne/International 143T
 Cirrus Des Aigles (Fr)
Prix Dollar/Champion Stakes
3 Excelebration (Ire) Queen Elizabeth II 131T
4  Black Caviar (Aus)
Lightning Stakes
 Hay List (Aus)
Newmarket Handicap 129T


 Orfevre (Jap)
Takarazuka Kinen
7 Fort Larned (US) Breeders' Cup Classic 128D

 Wise Dan (US)
Ben Ali/Stephen Foster  128A/D
9 Camelot (Ire) Derby 127T

 I'll Have Another (US)
Preakness Stakes 127D
   So You Think (Ire)
Tattersalls Gold Cup 127T
   Nathaniel (GB)
Eclipse/King George 127T
   Moonlight Cloud (Fr)
Prix Maurice de Gheest 127T
   Dullahan (US)
Pacific Classic 127A
  Mucho Macho Man (US) Breeders' Cup Classic 127D


Name (country trained) Race Rating
1  Frankel (GB)
Queen Anne/International 143
 Cirrus Des Aigles (Fr)
Prix Dollar/Champion Stakes
3 Excelebration (Ire) Queen Elizabeth II 131
 Black Caviar (Aus)
Lightning Stakes
 Hay List (Aus)
Newmarket Handicap 129

 Orfevre (Jap)
Takarazuka Kinen
 Wise Dan (US)
Woodbine Mile
 8  So You Think (Ire)
Tattersalls Gold Cup 127
   Moonlight Cloud (Fr)
Prix Maurice de Gheest 127
   Nathaniel (GB)
Eclipse/King George 127
   Camelot (Ire)
Derby 127


Name (country trained) Race Rating
1  Wise Dan (US)
Stephen Foster Hcap 128
  Fort Larned (US) Breeders' Cup Classic 128
3 Mucho Macho Man (US) Breeders' Cup Classic 127

 I'll Have Another (US)
Preakness Stakes 127
5  Bodemeister (US)
Arkansas/Preakness 126
   Caleb's Posse (US)
Met Mile 126
7  Amazombie (US)
Churchill Downs 125

Game On Dude (US) Awesome Again 125
9  Ron The Greek (US)
Stephen Foster Hcap 124
   Shackleford (US)
Met Mile 124
   Successful Dan (US)
Alysheba Stakes


Name (country trained) Race Rating
1  Wise Dan (US)
Ben Ali 
2  Dullahan (US) Pacific Classic 127
 Monterosso (UAE)
Dubai World Cup 126
4  Amazombie (US)
Bing Crosby Handicap 125
   Game On Dude (US)
Hollywood Gold Cup 125
6  Camp Victory (US)
Triple Bend Hcap 124
7  Krypton Factor (BHR)
Golden Shaheen
8  Musir (SAF)
Maktoum Challenge R1
   Colour Vision (GB)
Sagaro Stakes 122
   The Factor (US)
Triple Bend Hcap 122
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