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Hong Kong Champion Ambitious Dragon retired

Zac Purton hugging Ambitious Dragon after winning The Longines Hong Kong Mile during the Hong Kong International Races at Sha Tin racecourse on December 9, 2012 in Hong Kong.
Ambitious Dragon, one of the greatest champions in the history of Hong Kong horse racing, has retired. The Hong Kong Jockey Club made the announcement today, Thursday, 16 April.
 
Twice crowned Hong Kong’s Horse of the Year, the New Zealand-bred gelding was also named Champion Miler twice and was twice Champion Middle-Distance Horse, such was his talent and versatility. Ambitious Dragon ends his career with a record of 13 wins from 30 starts and prize-money earned in Hong Kong of HK$58,722,850, making him the sixth-highest earner in Hong Kong history. 
 
Trainer Tony Millard guided the brilliant son of Pins to a host of big-race successes at Sha Tin, notably Group 1 wins in the 2011 Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup (2000m) and the 2012 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m). Ambitious Dragon secured a further five wins at local G1 level, including the Hong Kong Derby (2000m) in 2011. 
 
The bay with the electric burst of speed achieved a peak international rating of 124, which ranked him as the equal 11th best horse in the world in 2013 - Able Friend is the only Hong Kong-based horse to have been rated higher. That ranking was earned with a storming victory in the HKG1 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m) in March of that year, which turned out to be his final success. He was also rated 124 (equal 13th) in the 2012 world rankings and 122 (equal 23rd) in 2011.
 
“In my opinion, he is as good as you get, and why I say that is because he was so versatile,” said Millard. “I have yet to see a horse, in my time here in Hong Kong, win Group 1 races at 1400m, 1600m, 1800m and 2000m. I haven't seen another horse do that in the 16 years I’ve been here. He also ran second in the 2400m Group 1, and, frankly speaking, in his younger days, I would have thought he could have maybe won a Group 1 over 1200m. That type of versatility you just don't get, and that is why a champion has no distance - that horse is a champion, he can do it - and that, to me, was Ambitious Dragon.
 
“He was unique. We just had to look after him carefully because he was very fragile, like many good horses are. We were very sparing in the way we raced him. The last time I had one as good as him was more than 20 years ago, in that same league, with that kind of versatility. It took me 20 years to find another one, so we really looked after him.
 
“He was also special because he was a quiet, laid-back horse. He was basically a gentle giant. I was humbled that he did come my way and that we managed to develop him, because you don’t often get the chance as a trainer to be able to do that. It is the ultimate to have a really good horse and train it the way you would like, and I have got to thank Johnson Lam because he left it to me; I made the calls and we got the results.  We had the team behind us and we had the right people at the right time - that is what a horse needs, it needs a good mafoo and a good work rider because they can’t do it on their own, it is a team effort.
 
“It is about winning the Group 1s and he won seven. And it is about being Horse of the Year and then coming back and doing it again to establish why you are a good horse. Dragon did it and then he came back again, it wasn’t a one-off season. He proved he was a champion. I hope that one day, if I train long enough and live long enough, I might get another like him. It won’t be easy because a horse like him usually comes along just once in a lifetime.”  
 
Seven jockeys rode Ambitious Dragon throughout his career. Maxime Guyon was on top for his Derby win, Douglas Whyte partnered him to four wins, Zac Purton was in the plate for his last three successes and his final start; and the likes of Gerald Mosse, Weichong Marwing and Umberto Rispoli also took the reins.
 
“He was a gentleman to ride,” said Purton. “The pony would have to drag him around at the gates, he was so quiet. You would just switch him off, and on his day, when he was right, nothing in the world at the time could go with him. He was a phenomenal racehorse and the best miler I’ve ridden. It’s a shame we’re not going to see him race again but he gave me a great thrill when he won the Hong Kong Mile and it was a pleasure to be able to ride a horse of that calibre.” 
 
Whyte was up top for Ambitious Dragon’s APQEII Cup win as well as his Triple Crown bid.
 
“He was one of the best horses I’ve ridden here in Hong Kong,” said the 13-time Hong Kong Champion Jockey. “Still, to this day, he gave me the most unbelievable feeling of any horse I’ve ever ridden - his turn-of-foot was incredible. He was a champion, he was dour and he was as honest as the day is long.”
 
 

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