Ambitious Dragon is already assured of his place in the pantheon of Hong Kong’s great horses but trainer Tony Millard’s pride and joy is not done yet. The eight-year-old, back this term after 18-months on the sidelines, has a whole new batch of rising stars to put in their places and his trainer is hoping the old champ can give them all at least a taste of what they’ve been missing in Sunday’s (23 November) G2 BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Mile.
Hong Kong’s two-time Horse of the Year has next month’s G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (14 December) as his prime target. If he were to succeed again at the LONGINES Hong Kong International Races he would become the first horse in the Mile’s 23-year history to reclaim the crown he won in brilliant fashion two years ago but was unable to defend last year. First though, Ambitious Dragon must take on a classy field of 10 in Sunday’s contest, traditionally the premier trial for next month’s big one.
“The Dragon” warmed up this term with a smart comeback run that had his legion of fans dreaming of a continuation of the glory days, despite such a long lay-off due to a tendon injury. Pitched in against just about the best Hong Kong could muster in the HKG2 Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy (1600m) on 26 October, the Pins gelding ran home with zest to take a close third behind Military Attack and the current Champion Miler Gold-Fun.
Since then, Millard’s charge has impressed in a 1000m turf barrier trial. That was on 14 November. Ambitious Dragon cruised over the top of inferior rivals in a time of 58s (14.2s, 20.6s, 23.2s), with Gerald Mosse keeping a firm hold as his mount eased past the post.
“His barrier trial was good, I was very happy with that warm-up trial, he’s sharpened up,” said Millard of the gelding, whose big-race wins also include the G1 AP QEII Cup (2000m), the HKG1 Hong Kong Derby (2000m), the HKG1 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) and the HKG1 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m).
“He’s still a little bit on the heavy side and this race will hopefully put him right. If he can win it - well, that’s in the hands of the gods. I’m very happy with him and I think whatever he does there’s still going to be improvement in him for the Internationals.”
The opposition on Sunday once again includes the Richard Gibson-trained Gold-Fun, last year’s winner, who will carry a 5lbs penalty, and there is international interest in the form of the Japanese mare Hana’s Goal, winner of the G1 All Aged Stakes (1400m) in Australia in April.
But the most intriguing rival is perhaps Able Friend, considered as a possible heir apparent to the Champion Miler throne. If ever a horse looked impressive in defeat, it was trainer John Moore’s HKG1 Hong Kong Classic Mile victor on his season’s bow over 1200m last start.