Ambitious Dragon at His Prime for Dubai Duty Free

The racing world already knew perfectly well that Ambitious Dragon was of rare ability at the start of October last year as he prepared to make his seasonal debut over 1,400m in the Group 3 National Day Cup at Sha Tin.

The five-year-old son of Pins had already been crowned Hong Kong’s Horse of the Year for 2010/11 with three Group 1 races in the bag, including the Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby and the Audemars Piguet QEII Cup against international opposition.

But it was the manner with which he dropped back to a distance short of his best on October 1 and, under top weight, donkey-licked a top class field of milers that prompted the superlatives.

As soon as Hong Kong’s perennial champion jockey Douglas Whyte described Ambitious Dragon as “the best horse I have ever ridden” one felt the world was truly at the feet of the gifted New Zealand-bred champion.

True, things did not go his way subsequently in the Group 1 Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Cup and the principal trial for that race, but he has since matched his career bests in easy wins over 1,600m and 2,000m in the Group 3 Stewards Cup and Group 1 Citibank Hong Kong Gold Cup respectively to suggest that scene is set for Ambitious Dragon to mark himself out as an true international great in the Group 1 Dubai Duty Free, sponsored by Dubai Duty Free on Saturday night.

South African-born trainer Tony Millard is not an individual often given to hyperbole, but it was easy to sense an air of anticipation within him as he faced the media in a Tuesday morning press conference.

“We have not come here for a holiday,” Millard conceded with a determined smile as Ambitious Dragon bids to become the third Hong Kong horse to win at a Dubai World Cup meeting following Vengeance Of Rain in 2007 (Dubai Sheema Classic) and Joy And Fun (Al Quoz Sprint) in 2010.

“He travelled over very well and I am certainly happy that we came over earlier given the 48-hour rule of remaining in quarantine. We gave him a workout on Sunday, fast work and he covered 800m in 28sec and 24sec which we were very happy with.

“He is at his prime now. He is a five-year-old and I think he will run to his ability as long as there are no hiccups between now and Saturday,” he said.

Ambitious Dragon has drawn nicely in gate four which will give Whyte options in the event of a slow pace.

“He does come from the back and we are hoping there will be some pace on but he will settle. He is a relaxed horse and if he is closer in the run then it will not be the end of the world,” Millard continued.

“And I think 1,800m is his ideal distance. He gets [1,600m] no problem and while it’s the same at 2,000m, the 1,800m he is at his best. He can really turn it on.”

No problems are predicted with the counter-clockwise way of racing at either, so everything seems in place for the Hong Kong-based ‘Dragon’ to breathe fire and illuminate Meydan with the brilliance he has shown at home.