Only five rivals stand in Dragon's way
Ambitious Dragon will have just five rivals to beat for the HK$4 million first prize and a HK$5 million bonus in the Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup on Sunday week.
The Jockey Club's call for additional entries yesterday morning fell on deaf ears and the final set of nominations for the final Group One race of the season numbered just six - Ambitious Dragon, Dominant, Irian, Liberator, Mr Medici and Super Pistachio - while other potential runners for the 2,400-metre feature like Thumbs Up, California Memory and Zaidan run this Sunday at 2,000m in Singapore instead.
'It's always disappointing to get small fields in the Group Ones but there is no getting away from it, this is not a race where we historically get field size,' said executive director of racing Bill Nader. 'Look at the last three - we had seven runners in 2010 and eight last year and 2009 and only one of the last five made double figures. There are probably a couple of names I thought we might have seen there, even if they were well out of it at the ratings, but they haven't been nominated.
'Look back over the race's history and each year you see many of the same names turn up but last year's winner, Mighty High, is injured and Viva Pataca, who was a regular in this race, was retired.'
Around the globe, the conditions of race or series bonuses often carry a requirement for a minimum number of starters in each leg before the bonus would be paid out, but Nader said the Champions & Chater had no such clause and Ambitious Dragon's Triple Crown status was not affected.
'There's no minimum field for the HK$5 million Triple Crown bonus and we will honour that if Ambitious Dragon wins,' he said. 'He already has HK$2 million for winning the Stewards' Cup-Gold Cup double and there's another HK$3 million bonus for winning this as well.
'However many runners you get, it's still a pretty remarkable achievement to win the best domestic races at 1,600m, 2,000m and 2,400m in the same season.'
That achievement will belong to Ambitious Dragon alone if he is successful, as River Verdon, the only previous winner of the Triple Crown, won the final leg in the 1993-94 season when the Champions & Chater was run at 2,200m.
The six-horse field - if all runners make it to the May 27 date intact - will be the smallest since Co-Tack's second Champions & Chater victory in 1984 against three rivals, though there have been fields of six on three occasions since.