Ambitious Dragon wins the Hong Kong Derby for trainer Tony Millard
Ambitious Dragon wins the Hong Kong Derby for trainer Tony Millard

Click above to watch Ambitious Dragon winning the Hong Kong Derby

(Photo and Footage : HKJC)


Sha Tin, Turf, 2000m

20 March 2011

Ambitious Dragon, a son of Waikato Stud’s Pins (Snippets) and trained by Tony Millard for owner Johnson Lam Pui Hung, delivered  exactly what his fans have come to expect of him when coming with a strong late run to overpower the leaders and win the HK$16 million Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby (HK Gr 1, 2000m) at Sha Tin Sunday.

The John Moore-trainedXtension (Xaar) was gallant in defeat, keeping on well for second three quarters of a length behind the winner, with Let Me Handle It (High Chaparral), trained by Caspar Fownes almost four more lengths behind in third and another John Moore horse, Jacobee, a full six lengths behind the winner in fourth.

Although the winning margin was less than a length Ambitious Dragon always seemed to have the measure of the runner-up in the last 200m and with such a long gap back to the remainder of his rivals he gave the distinct impression in this, his fourth consecutive victory and his second Hong Kong Group 1 event, that he may be a Derby winner of unusual quality.

It can hardly be called a triumph without problem as jockey Maxime Guyon had to find a way to victory from the outside gate, but the Frenchman accomplished his task without any sign of panic.

Speaking through an interpreter, Guyon, who had flown in overnight from France for the race, said, “I am very, very happy, he was a big favourite but he did everything I asked. I am so happy with him and so full of confidence too for future races. I only had to whip him once and I think he is sure to be an international Group 1 horse of the future.”

“I didn’t worry about the draw,” said a jubilant Millard afterwards, although no horse had won the Derby from barrier 14 since the race distance was changed to 2000m at the start of the millennium. “I just worried about the horse. But after the draw I went to look at him and he looked so well I had no doubts. You get a horse like this just once or twice in a lifetime and I just feel lucky to have him. Maxime rode him an absolute treat. At one point he was blocked too, but the horse was good enough in spite of that. He’s one of those you just dream about.”

“It’s been a tough time,” added the South African, referring to the stable’s shortage of big race success since his previous 2000 Derby winner Keen Winner (Selkirk), a horse he rates much inferior to today’s victor. “We’ve had a long time in the wilderness, and I just hope people will start believing in us now as we’ve always believed in ourselves.”

Millard was keen to share the credit with his staff. “Particularly Carol Yu who is a very, very good assistant trainer and is 110 per cent dedicated. Ambitious Dragon will definitely go for the (Audemars Piguet) QE II Cup on 1 May now and after that he’ll have a spell. He’s earned it, hasn’t he, not many horses progress from Class 4 to win the Derby, but he’s done that.”

Not only has he done that, but he’s become the first horse in Hong Kong to score six times this season. If he now goes on to further triumph in the APQEII Cup (Gr 1, 2000m), he will have equaled the Hong Kong seasonal record of seven victories set last year by Entrapment (Halo Homewrecker).

A crowd of 46,566 attended, an increase of almost 7,000 on attendance for the same event in 2010.

Extract from ANZ Bloodstock News