Reigning Horse of the Year Ambitious Dragon joined sprinters Joy And Fun and Eagle Regiment yesterday as the first Hong Kong raiders to set out for Dubai.
Tomorrow, Lucky Nine, California Memory and Xtension will complete the six-horse team which promises to be the strongest group yet to campaign under the bauhinia flag at a major foreign meeting.
All but Eagle Regiment and Joy And Fun wound up their preparations on home soil with trials at Sha Tin on Tuesday morning, and all received a positive report card.
'He's spot on, that's just top him off now,' reported Ambitious Dragon's jockey, Douglas Whyte, after a low-pressure second to Sacred Kingdom. 'He came out comfortably and I sat off them. I let him find the line and he let down beautifully.'
Whyte said he didn't foresee issues for Ambitious Dragon racing left-handed for the first time in the Dubai Duty Free (1,800m).
'It's always a slight query but with a horse like him, who is not fazed about much at all I don't see it posing too much of a problem. It's a kind turn, not a turn he's got to go into and spin around,' Whyte said. 'It looks an uncomplicated 1,800m, fingers crossed we get a half decent alley and have a nice trip around. I'm sure you'll see him letting down as we all know Ambitious can.'
Xtension and the Tony Cruz-trained California Memory filled second and third respectively behind Ambitious Dragon in the Gold Cup last month and will again oppose him in the US$5 million Duty Free.
Both of them also trialled behind Sacred Kingdom, with Xtension a quietly ridden seventh and California Memory finding the line nicely in fourth and Cruz is quietly confident of a better result in Dubai.
'He could have won the Gold Cup but pulled up very sore in both fetlocks, which is why he didn't finish the way he normally does. We've rectified the problem and I was very happy with his trial,' Cruz said. 'He'll be a different horse this time.'
In other news, the licensing committee yesterday granted club jockey licences to Weichong Marwing (from April 9 to June 30) and Willie Pike (from April 25 till season's end).