Whyte 'went against my instructions'
Ambitious Dragon's trainer, Tony Millard, and champion jockey Douglas Whyte were at loggerheads over where the fault lay after the reigning Horse Of The Year's defeat in the BMW Champions Mile at Sha Tin yesterday.
After getting back in the field against the inside rail in the middle stages, Ambitious Dragon finished on to be fourth and just over a length from the John Moore-trained Xtension, who replicated his only other Hong Kong victory in the same race last year, but Millard pointed the blame squarely at Whyte's ride.
'That was a very disappointing ride for a top jockey - we spoke before about the race and the one thing that we didn't want to happen was what happened,' Millard said. 'I said categorically not to go to the rail and Ambitious Dragon ended up on the rail. I want to watch the replay again but I thought he had the chance to get two wide at one point and he didn't take it. The horse has finished the race off in 21.9 seconds and did a fantastic job but he was put in exactly the place he shouldn't have been.'
Whyte hit back at the criticism, pointing to the stewards' suspension of rival rider Kevin Shea on Musir for causing interference that put Ambitious Dragon onto the fence, against Whyte's wishes.
'It's really difficult riding for someone like Tony - yes, we had discussed beforehand to stay one off the rail, if I could, but incidents occur and a jockey has got three days for interference when I was ridden into the rail,' Whyte said. 'If you look, I've got Ambitious Dragon's head turned sideways to try and keep him off the fence but I've got no alternative, and Tye Angland got spat out the back and nearly fell.'
But Whyte said he didn't believe the incident caused Ambitious Dragon's defeat.
'Under the circumstances, I then had to ride a race from the rail and with hindsight, I couldn't have wished for a softer run in the race. The horse was comfortable and happy, I was following nice horses with everyone within reach and as they all started to peel off, I pinched three lengths on the turn,' he explained.
'Following instructions as best I could after that, I was told to sit and wait - and I know Ambitious Dragon inside out - so I sat and I'm waiting and thinking, 'He's back', and when I pressed the button I thought he would explode past Able One, who came off the rail and gave me a beautiful run.
'But my horse was found wanting and his finish was disappointing. I know that Tony will blame the jockey and say it was a poor ride but it would be nice if he watched the replay and had some horse sense to see what happened, what happens after and see that that incident probably benefited me. For me, Ambitious Dragon has come to the end of his preparation and needs time out. We know he's a fantastic horse and he can bounce back.
'It's just sad that when some people are disappointed they need someone to blame. I am thankful that Ambitious Dragon's owner is an honourable man.'
The Millard-Whyte spat took some of the attention from Xtension's win, with New Zealand whizz-kid James McDonald giving the five-year-old a perfect ride to overcome Moore's doubts about how the horse had returned from Dubai.
In the strongest edition yet of the Champions Mile, the runaway Dubai Duty Free winner, Cityscape - who had left Ambitious Dragon and Xtension eating dust at Meydan - failed to repeat that form. He never got into the race and it was again an all-Hong Kong finish.