Ambitious Dragon still a champion, insists Guyon
There was just a nose in it, but just enough to swear about for favourite punters as French jockey Maxime Guyon's unbeaten run on Ambitious Dragon came to an inglorious end in the Cathay Pacific Jockey Club Mile and the John Moore-trained Destined For Glory put up his bid for international glory next month.
Earlier in the week, Moore had declared Ambitious Dragon was the best horse he had seen in 40 years in Hong Kong racing and that only injury or bad luck would see him beaten against domestic opposition, but bad luck arrived by the truck load.
Guyon was stuck in no-man's land wide and neither forward nor back throughout the race, yet the Horse of the Year still looked like clinging on for victory until Destined For Glory (Tim Clark) arrived.
'It was certainly a surprise to win it and especially with my third-string horse,' Moore admitted. 'But we had a great run while the favourite had a tough run.
'I'm thrilled for the owners - Mr Siu has allowed me to spend a lot of money on horses for him and Irian just missed out but this makes up for it. Last season, I thought Destined For Glory as good as any of my Derby horses, but he has been very fractious and travelled too fiercely in a number of his races so we might try to keep him to the mile until he gets over that. He saddled up well today but he still got stirred up when Tim got on him.' Guyon's review was succinct, declaring 'he is still a champion to me', while Ambitious Dragon's trainer Tony Millard tried to take positives from the defeat that it won't dent his prospects for the Hong Kong Cup ahead.
'He was very wide and quite close up and that's not his style,' he said. 'But he still went down by just a nostril. He hadn't run for seven weeks and, as things panned out we didn't win, but the horse ran a great race. We were hoping to win, but that was a great lead up.'
Australian Tim Clark was as surprised as anyone to win on Destined For Glory after he had expected to ride last year's winner, Able One.
'I was shattered on Thursday when I found out I wouldn't be on Able One, so there you go,' he grinned. 'Barrier one was a big advantage - especially with the favourite being wide and I could see all that happening during the race.
'He ran well for me first-up, then a bit flat second-up, but coming back to the 1,600m today where the tempo helps him to relax better, he has a lovely turn of foot.
'He's probably still a bit untapped - his pre-race antics can bring him undone and he gets aggressive in his races, but he's getting better all round and might grow out of those things in time.'
Moore said Destined For Glory will go to the Hong Kong Mile now with stablemate Xtension, who rocketed home just behind the placings, and quite likely Able One.
'Able One didn't have the perfect run but I still think he was a bit below par so we'll see how he pulls up,' he said. 'Xtension went terrific - nothing finished the race better.'
Caspar Fownes was equally pleased with injury-prone Fair Trade's charge into fourth.
'I only hope he pulls up sound - I had him about 85 per cent right for today and he's getting there,' Fownes said.
'He's right up to the international grade and it's just a matter of being able to keep him standing up.'
The sensational time the John Moore-trained Destined For Glory clocked for the final 400m