Two-time Hong Kong Horse of the Year Ambitious Dragon (NZ) will face a white hot field in the G1 Stewards’ Cup at Sha Tin on Sunday.
The first leg of Hong Kong’s prestigious Triple Crown has drawn the best milers available including Glorious Days, who defeated Ambitious Dragon in the G1 Jockey Club Mile in November, as well as last year’s placegetters Xtension and California Memory.
They are joined by 2012 Hong Kong Derby winner Fay Fay (Falkirk) and the promising Military Attack who won the G3 January Cup at his last start.
New Zealand-bred runners have won the last three editions of the event, through Ambitious Dragon last year, Beauty Flash (Golan) in 2011 and Fellowship (O’Reilly) in 2010.
John Size has notched four wins in the Stewards’ Cup and his stable stars Glorious Days and Fay Fay will be joined by Real Specialist (Storming Home). “Glorious Days has been fine since his run in December, he had a trial recently and it looked like everything was normal,” Size said. “The horse hasn’t shown anything different to usual and so it’s the normal pattern for him – everything’s on schedule.”
Real Specialist faces his stiffest task to date after running second in the G3 Chinese Club Challenge Cup (1400m) on January 1. “He raced three weeks ago so he has some advantage fitness-wise,” Size added. “After his win on International Day, he was able to run three weeks later – that suits him and so he’s got an uninterrupted fitness regime. I think the top horses like Ambitious Dragon, California Memory and Glorious Days are quicker than him but a lot depends on the running of the race and whether he gets the opportunity to show his strengths.
The Stewards’ Cup will be run just days after Ambitious Dragon (Pins) achieving a record-equalling career benchmark in the 2012 World Thoroughbred Rankings.
The Tony Millard-trained galloper matched former Hong Kong highweight Good Ba Ba’s 2008 WTR peak of 124. His mark was achieved when victorious under top-weight in October’s G2 Sha Tin Trophy. Ambitious Dragon is ranked equal 13th alongside global heavyweights Snow Fairy, Danedream and St Nicholas Abbey.