Underrated stayer Liberator proved the toughest stayer and best-placed to take advantage of a dawdling tempo in the HK$8 million Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2,400m) yesterday to end Ambitious Dragon's Triple Crown dream.
What trainer David Ferraris had been promising from Liberator all season was a superior stayer and the four-year- old put it in black and white in the final Group One of this season and punctured the advertised match race - even if it was a questionable stamina test. The six-horse field went a crawling pace most of the race, but that all changed when jockey Weichong Marwing let Liberator have his head from the 700m and turned the race into a sprint for the finish that neither Ambitious Dragon nor the John Moore-trained Dominant could answer effectively.
'I said to David before the race that, if I could, I would like to make just one move on the horse, not two or three like he has been forced into making lately,' Marwing said.
'I don't want to criticise how Tim Clark has been riding him, because Liberator is not the easiest ride. But today I was just going to let Super Pistachio have the lead and let him do his thing and I could sit up outside him. I didn't want to be behind him, but up outside him, where I could go whenever I felt it was right.
'And I said to David that I wanted to make the one move but a long move - if I sat there, Liberator would have been outsprinted, but he does stay and if I kicked at the 600m or 800m and got a march on them that was his best chance. The way it all panned out couldn't have been more perfect.'
It was a second Group One for Ferraris for a season which has had its ups and downs but has proved a good one on the top grade front, winning with a horse he has had since a two-year-old as one of the now-defunct trainers syndicates.
'It's incredible, they've stopped these trainers syndicates and I'm not sure why, because this is what we do in South Africa. You buy nice young horses as babies and bring them up from scratch and it's very satisfying,' Ferraris said.
'He's a quirky horse - he has dropped his work rider at times in the past - but he is finally settling down now and I think there's improvement next season.
'He'll have a well-earned rest and we'll look at the Vase in December. What a great ride from Weichong Marwing.'
Umberto Rispoli settled Ambitious Dragon at the rear as expected, tracking Douglas Whyte on the other favourite, Dominant, and the Italian appeared to be the less-flustered when Marwing left them all standing.
While Ambitious Dragon travelled into the race as a threat, he couldn't finish it off at his first 2,400m attempt, and remained a well-held second, with his Triple Crown buried.
'Maybe the distance got to him the last 100m but it might have been a combination of things,' said trainer Tony Millard.
'We got beaten fair and square - he finished great but his run came to an end and he'd had enough.'
Moore, who had won four of the last six Champions & Chaters, had make do with third (Dominant) and Irian's fourth this time.
'Brett Prebble said he thought he would win for sure at the 800m on Irian, and the horse didn't finish it off, and I'm not convinced that he stays this distance,' Moore said.
'But Dominant was left flat-footed by Marwing's ride.
'In Europe, they go slow, then build as the race goes on, but that fast section down the side isn't what he is used to and just put him off his game. I was happy enough with the run, but that isn't Dominant's style of race.'