Liberator scuppered Ambitious Dragon’s bid to become only the second Hong Kong Triple Crown winner when securing victory in the HKG1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2400m) at Sha Tin this afternoon (27 May).
An astute tactical ride from Weichong Marwing saw the David Ferraris-trained gelding see off his illustrious rival with a determined drive to the wire off a steady tempo that produced a winning time of 2m 30.84s.
With Horse of the Year Ambitious Dragon settled at the tail of the six-runner field, and his recent Queen Mother Memorial Cup conqueror Dominant restrained in fifth, Marwing camped Liberator in second spot on the girths of the front-running Super Pistachio.
After pressing the leader at the 800m, Liberator took the lead with 600m remaining and, as his rivals struggled to bridge the gap, kicked clear in the home stretch, holding on resolutely by a length and a half from the deep closing Ambitious Dragon with fellow four-year-old Dominant a further neck away in third.
“At the race conditions we couldn’t win the race,” said Ferraris, referring to the official ratings. “The only ones that really concerned me were Tony’s (Millard) horse (Ambitious Dragon) and the one that beat us last time (Dominant).
“He’s improved so much and the race just panned out so well for him because if he sits on the outside of a horse he’s at his best. If he can sit on its girths and travel comfortably, he’s hard to run down. I knew when he kicked hard like that the rest would have to pick up their feet because he’s an out-and-out stayer. It was a very good move of Weichong’s because if they’d kept going slow they’d have outsprinted us.”
And Ferraris, who now has his sights set on a big prize in December, was particularly delighted to land the final leg of the Triple Crown with a horse purchased at the Hong Kong International Sale.
“Most of these nice horses are bought from overseas trainers but it’s nice to bring one up from scratch,” said the handler, who previously took the prize in 2005 with Vengeance Of Rain.
“Liberator’s a very quirky horse and he’s dropped his work rider a few times in the morning but he’s settling down into such a lovely horse. He’ll have a well earned rest now and we’ll aim for the (G1) Hong Kong Vase in December.”
Millard was proud of Ambitious Dragon’s effort saying: “He was very gallant in defeat and I couldn’t be happier with him. He just got found out by a top-class ride from Marwing.”
John Moore, unsuccessful with Dominant, nonetheless landed a hat-trick of wins in the day’s other Group race, the HKG3 Sha Tin Vase (Handicap). The trainer collected with Dim Sum in 2010 and 2011 and this time it was the turn of Captain Sweet, who displayed abundant courage to see off Arrived Ahead following a bobbing stretch duel.
The four-year-old, conceding 15lbs to the runner-up, edged the verdict by a short-head under Brett Prebble in a time of 1m 09.54s. Moore has earmarked the HKG3 Prince Jewellery & Watch Premier Cup (1400m) on 17 June for Captain Sweet before a well-earned summer rest.
“I thought he was going to win easier and then courage just got him over the line,” said Prebble, who rode a treble on the day. “He was more comfortable today than last time, because the ground was a little softer – he wasn’t impressive but he was all heart. Next season, after a nice long break, I think we’ll see a horse with more upside to him.”
||W C Marwing