WS Stallions To Fore In The Bay

HONG KONG REVIEW

BY MURRAY BELL

AMBITIOUS DRAGON RATES VERY HIGHLY

Maxime Guyon may have seemed overly euphoric in the wake of Ambitious Dragon’s (Pins) Hong Kong Derby (Gr 1, 2000m) victory on Sunday, writes Murray Bell, but the hard numbers of the race support the Frenchman’s rave reviews all the way.

Our proprietary speed ratings on Hong Kong racing say this is the highest-rating edition of the Derby since it was extended to 2,000 metres and, even without further improvement, his 122 rating puts Ambitious Dragon squarely into international Group One company.

Since Guyon first threw his leg over Ambitious Dragon in a Class 3 mile at Sha Tin on 9 January, the four-year-old has been on a dizzying upward form spiral that still shows no sign of flattening out.
The New Zealand-bred son of Waikato Stud sire Pins recorded a winning time of 2:01.5 to make this the second-fastest Hong Kong Derby (at 2,000 metres). After mathematically factoring out the track speed on the day, Ambitious Dragon usurps the fastest Derby winner Helene Mascot (Peintre Celebre) (2:01.3, in 2008) as the best of them all.

A look at the list of winners of the Mercedes-Benz sponsored Derby winners over the past 10 years shows you this is no ordinary race. The winning Derby quinella of Olympic Express (Bishop Of Cashel) and Precision (Anabaa) in 2002 set the bar high by scoring in the Hong Kong Mile (Gr 1, 1600m) and Cup (Gr 1, 2000m) respectively at the international meeting nine months later, but they have certainly not been alone.

Vengeance of Rain (Zabeel) achieved a speed rating of 119 in taking the Derby in 2005 for David Ferraris and Anthony Delpech. He went ahead a further five rating points to 124 in the Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth Cup (Gr 1, 2000m) over the same circuit the following month before landing the Hong Kong Cup in December and the Sheema Classic (Gr 1, 2400m) in Dubai in March, 2007.

And of course, there was Viva Pataca (Marju), who romped home an effortless winner of the 2006 Derby in an inferior year and has since gone on to go past Vengeance of Rain as Hong Kong’s highest prizemoney winner of all time, with a bankroll of HK$81,777,500.

Yet on the raw Derby figures, even Vengeance of Rain’s performance has been bettered by Ambitious Dragon by around 1-1/4 lengths.

The European form of runner-up Xtension (Xaar) gives us all the confirmation in the world that this is indeed a Derby winner off the top shelf.

Xtension had run fourth in the Newmarket 2000 Guineas (Gr 1, 1 mile), third to Canford Cliffs (Tagula) in the Curragh equivalent (Gr 1, 1 mile) and third to Dick Turpin (Arakan) in the Prix Jean Prat (Gr 1, 1 mile). Add to that the fact that he was already a Group Two winner at Goodwood as a juvenile and has been only a neck from the winner in the 2009 Dewhurst Stakes (Gr 1, 7 furlongs), clearly Xtension is a proper horse.

Having received the run of the race on Sunday under Jeff Lloyd, Xtension has returned a very healthy speed rating of 120 — the same number that his high-quality stablemate Collection (Peintre)

Article supplied courtesy of ANZ Bloodstock News

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