'Sleepy' Dragon shows what a champion he is
Sometime after loafing around the parade ring and then meandering to the starting gates, the switch inside Ambitious Dragon - the one that turns him from merely good to jaw-droopingly great - was flicked on.
The Tony Millard-trained superstar might have looked half asleep before the Group One Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup, but it was his high-profile rivals, Glorious Days and Lucky Nine, that he soon put to bed with a devastating display.
"The lead pony has to drag him around to the starting gates, but he knows what to do once the gates do open," winning jockey Zac Purton said. "He is the most relaxed horse I've ever ridden in any class. He just walks around like he is a hack at a show. You could put a kid on his back."
It had been eight weeks since what his trainer called a "forgive run" when fourth in the Stewards' Cup and sights are now set on another fresh run in the HK$14 million Group One Audemars Piguet QEII Cup (2,000m) six weeks from now.
"You just have to disregard the last run, he got a real bashing around the turn. He missed work for four or five days," Millard said. "That wasn't a keenly run race either, today the pace was on and he showed us what a champion he is."
Even though what looked like being a tactical battle was blown apart by Ambitious Dragon's dominance - he cruised to win by 21/2 lengths in a scorching time 1.20.63 - the race played out perfectly for Purton.
Rather than drop back to last from gate eight as many expected, Purton made sure he was at least a length closer and took up a spot one-off and got on the back of Lucky Nine. The positive move contributed to his main rival Douglas Whyte being stuck wide on Glorious Days from the widest and subsequently gave Ambitious Dragon a trailing run into the straight.
"I got to the 200m and I was basically in front and I hadn't moved on him," Purton said. So I thought, I have to put it to bed and let him show that blistering turn of foot - then he just coasts. You don't win Group One any easier than that."
Time After Time (Gerald Mosse) finished second, with John Moore hoping for an invitation for the Singapore KrisFlyer Sprint in May, while Glorious Days finished a battling third.
Glorious Days' trainer John Size didn't blame his horse's wide run for the defeat, he just pointed to the dominance of Millard's machine.
"When that horse turns up in that form, we can't beat him anyway," he said.
Lucky Nine didn't show his usual fight and was 51/4 lengths away in fourth and trainer Caspar Fownes was suspecting something was amiss. "He pulled up lame, we think it might be a foot issue," he said.