Ambitious Dragon aims at rare Triple Crown glory

Hong Kong has known only one Triple Crown winner but Ambitious Dragon will attempt to re-write that record when he lines up for the HKG1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup at Sha Tin this Sunday.

Tony Millard’s charge took the first two legs of the Triple Crown in scintillating style as he comfortably swept aside high-class opponents to win the HKG1 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) in January and February’s HKG1 Citibank Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m).

Now the five-time G1/HKG1 winner and reigning Horse of the Year faces a step into the unknown as he takes on five rivals over 2400m, in an attempt to become only the second HK Triple Crown winner, 18 years after River Verdon (in 1994) became the first.

Ambitious Dragon heads towards his date with history having tasted defeat in his last two starts. Off colour when seventh in the G1 Dubai Duty Free on 31 March, the five-year-old then finished fourth behind Xtension in the G1 BMW Champions Mile on 6 May and his trainer is pleased with the star’s condition since then.

“I’m particularly happy with him,” said Millard. “He has come out of that last race really well – he’s come out fresh after that and if anything I think he’s come on. He had a nice workout yesterday (Monday) and I was pleased with that – I’m perfectly happy with his condition.”

Given his brilliance at shorter distances and having never faced the 2400m before, a question mark hangs over Ambitious Dragon regarding the extent of his stamina, and the answer to that question will not be known until Sunday.

“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,” observed Millard. “He’s out of an Oregon mare that went two miles, and she in turn is out of a Noble Bijou mare that also went two miles and produced a stakes winner over 2400m, and Noble Bijou is by Vaguely Noble – there’s a lot of stamina in there.

“So pedigree-wise, on his female line, you wouldn’t worry with him. He’s a champion and champions just have that toe. Maybe it turns out that he doesn’t stay, we just can’t be sure. He’s so good over a variety of distances already that you think can he really have a range of distances stretching 1000m from 1400m to 2400m? 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.”


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