AMBITIOUS Dragon, one of the greatest champions in the history of Hong Kong horse racing, has retired. The Hong Kong Jockey Club made the announcement today, Thursday, 16 April.

Twice crowned Hong Kongs Horse of the Year, the New Zealand-bred gelding was also named Champion Miler twice and was twice Champion Middle-Distance Horse, such was his talent and versatility. Ambitious Dragon ends his career with a record of 13 wins from 30 starts and prize-money earned in Hong Kong of HK$58,722,850, making him the sixth-highest earner in Hong Kong history.

Trainer Tony Millard guided the brilliant son of Pins to a host of big-race successes at Sha Tin, notably Group 1 wins in the 2011 Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup (2000m) and the 2012 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m). Ambitious Dragon secured a further five wins at local G1 level, including the Hong Kong Derby (2000m) in 2011.


The bay with the electric burst of speed achieved a peak international rating of 124, which ranked him as the equal 11th best horse in the world in 2013 - Able Friend is the only Hong Kong-based horse to have been rated higher. That ranking was earned with a storming victory in the HKG1 Queens Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m) in March of that year, which turned out to be his final success. He was also rated 124 (equal 13th) in the 2012 world rankings and 122 (equal 23rd) in 2011.

"In my opinion, he is as good as you get, and why I say that is because he was so versatile, said Millard. I have yet to see a horse, in my time here in Hong Kong, win Group 1 races at 1400m, 1600m, 1800m and 2000m. I haven't seen another horse do that in the 16 years Ive been here. He also ran second in the 2400m Group 1, and, frankly speaking, in his younger days, I would have thought he could have maybe won a Group 1 over 1200m. That type of versatility you just don't get, and that is why a champion has no distance - that horse is a champion, he can do it - and that, to me, was Ambitious Dragon.

"He was unique. We just had to look after him carefully because he was very fragile, like many good horses are. We were very sparing in the way we raced him. The last time I had one as good as him was more than 20 years ago, in that same league, with that kind of versatility. It took me 20 years to find another one, so we really looked after him.


"He was also special because he was a quiet, laid-back horse. He was basically a gentle giant. I was humbled that he did come my way and that we managed to develop him, because you dont often get the chance as a trainer to be able to do that. It is the ultimate to have a really good horse and train it the way you would like, and I have got to thank Johnson Lam because he left it to me; I made the calls and we got the results.  We had the team behind us and we had the right people at the right time - that is what a horse needs, it needs a good mafoo and a good work rider because they cant do it on their own, it is a team effort.

"It is about winning the Group 1s and he won seven. And it is about being Horse of the Year and then coming back and doing it again to establish why you are a good horse. Dragon did it and then he came back again, it wasnt a one-off season. He proved he was a champion. I hope that one day, if I train long enough and live long enough, I might get another like him. It wont be easy because a horse like him usually comes along just once in a lifetime. 

Seven jockeys rode Ambitious Dragon throughout his career. Maxime Guyon was on top for his Derby win, Douglas Whyte partnered him to four wins, Zac Purton was in the plate for his last three successes and his final start; and the likes of Gerald Mosse, Weichong Marwing and Umberto Rispoli also took the reins.

"He was a gentleman to ride, said Purton. The pony would have to drag him around at the gates, he was so quiet. You would just switch him off, and on his day, when he was right, nothing in the world at the time could go with him. He was a phenomenal racehorse and the best miler Ive ridden. Its a shame were not going to see him race again but he gave me a great thrill when he won the Hong Kong Mile and it was a pleasure to be able to ride a horse of that calibre.

Whyte was up top for Ambitious Dragons APQEII Cup win as well as his Triple Crown bid."He was one of the best horses Ive ridden here in Hong Kong, said the 13-time Hong Kong Champion Jockey. Still, to this day, he gave me the most unbelievable feeling of any horse Ive ever ridden - his turn-of-foot was incredible. He was a champion, he was dour and he was as honest as the day is long.


Ambitious Dragons career started out somewhat anonymously with an eighth of 12 finish on 3 February 2010. That came in a 1200m Class 4 contest at Happy Valley. Trained at the time by Francis Lui, the then three-year-old would end that campaign without a win from four starts but with two runner-up efforts suggesting that better would follow. No one could have foreseen just how much better he would become.

"Dragon moved to the Millard stable after that campaign and the South African started his new charge in eight races during the 2010/2011 season. The return was seven wins and a rise to the very pinnacle. Two class four wins were followed by a now unthinkable reversal in Class 3, but from the turn of the year Ambitious Dragon was unbeatable. He stormed the four-year-old division with wins in the HKG1 Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) and HKG1 Hong Kong Derby and rounded out his campaign with APQEII Cup success, defeating the likes of California Memory, Viva Pataca and Gitano Hernando. That seventh win equaled the record for most wins by a horse in a Hong Kong season.


The 2011/12 season commenced with a stunning win in the HKG3 National Day Cup (Handicap). Shouldering 133lb, Ambitious Dragon conceded 18lb to the high-class runner-up Destined For Glory and slammed him by two and a half lengths.  That season was most memorable for his outstanding wins in the first two legs of the Hong Kong Triple Crown, the HKG1 Stewards Cup (1600m) and the HKG1 Citibank Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m), and his gallant failure when second in the third leg, the HKG1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2400m); also his disappointing seventh in the G1 Dubai Duty Free (1800m), his one overseas venture, for which he started as race favourite but appeared to be disturbed by the pre-race hoopla at Meydan.

Another sensational handicap win under top-weight of 133lb kicked off the 2012/2013 campaign as Ambitious Dragon swept aside Glorious Days (129lb) in the HKG2 Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy (Handicap) over a mile.  The second reversed the placings next start, but the champion was back on top when it mattered, in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile that December, a triumph that made up for his defeat in the previous years G1 Hong Kong Cup (2000m) and which was all the more brilliant for the fact that he had been lame the previous day. His final career win came three months later in the Queens Silver Jubilee Cup.

Defeated in the APQEII Cup on his last outing of 2012/2013, Ambitious Dragon subsequently suffered a tendon injury when preparing for his 2013/2014 debut. A long spell at the Hong Kong Jockey Clubs Beas River complex resulted in a good recovery. Yet although still capable of a high level of form, Dragon was unable to recapture the brilliance of his prime. His eagerly-awaited first race for 18 months came in the HKG2 Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy (Handicap) this past October. He thrilled his many fans with a running-on third on that occasion, beaten only three quarters of a length. He was unable to better that in three subsequent starts.

Ambitious Dragon's last race was a solid fifth behind Able Friend in the G1 Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup on 15 March. Although the old warrior ran home strongly - his final section of 22.45s was bettered only by the winner - the once-devastating turbo boost was no longer engaging. Ambitious Dragons exceptional ability to quicken with such brilliance at the end of a race is the awe-inspiring image that will live long in the memories of those who watched him raise the roof at Sha Tin.

A retirement ceremony will be held for Ambitious Dragon at Sha Tin Racecourse on APQEII Cup Day, Sunday, 26 April.