Dubai mission is not a no-brainer

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 February, 2012, 12:00am


While the question of a tilt for Ambitious Dragon at the greatest riches available in horse racing might seem to most of us a great problem to have, history shows the gelding's connections have every right to be careful with their choices.

To anyone else, it looks a no-brainer to make the trip to Dubai in the aftermath of his stroll to win the Gold Cup on Sunday. The five-year-old would represent one of the best chances of desert glory ever sent by Hong Kong. Whether the US$10 million World Cup or US$5 million Duty Free were to be the target, that's an awful lot of prize money.

But owners Johnson Lam Pui-hung and Anderson Lam Hin-yue are not keen to make the trip to Meydan, and the past record of horses returning from Dubai backs their thinking.

The main examples cited are Vengeance Of Rain - who paid the price for his Sheema Classic win by returning short of his best form in the QE II and Champions & Chater, which cost him Horse of the Year in favour of the horse he had beaten in the Gold Cup before Dubai, Viva Pataca - and Viva Pataca himself the following year. He, too, wasn't on song for the QE II and Champions & Chater after finishing second in the Sheema in 2008.

But the list is longer than that.

In 2000, Resfa broke down while preparing in Dubai and that was the finish of him, and top horses like Vengeance Of Rain, Lucky Quality, Russian Pearl, Indigenous, King Dancer, Good Ba Ba and most recently Beauty Flash didn't return to the winner's stall after Dubai campaigns, even those who had performed strongly.

Others like 2002 Sheema Classic runner-up Helene Vitality and 2007 World Cup third placegetter Bullish Luck returned and lost form for a considerable time before they were able to win again, albeit in a lesser class of race than they had been used to contesting.

Only one Hong Kong horse, Fairy King Prawn, who was narrowly beaten in the 2001 Duty Free, came back home and won first time out, in the Chairman's Sprint Prize.

Only seven horses have ever gone to Dubai to race from Hong Kong and won even one race again afterwards, so make no mistake about the decision on Ambitious Dragon, however simple it looks from the sidelines.

If he doesn't go, there is no Group One target here for Ambitious Dragon until the Audemars Piguet QE II Cup at the end of April, though there are potential prep races for that event in the Premier Plate over 1,800m on Derby day or the Group Two Chairman's Trophy at 1,600m on April 1.

They look pale aims beside the glittering desert trophies, but there is a price to pay for the huge riches on offer in Dubai, and it is all about whether our current champion's people are willing to roll that dice.