Damien Oliver will interrupt his Melbourne Autumn Carnival with a hit and run mission to Hong Kong for trainer John Moore.
Moore has called on the services of the Melbourne Cup winning jockey to partner Irian in the second leg of the Hong Kong Triple Crown the Group 1 HK$8m Citibank Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m) on February 26 in which he will possibly have four starters.
Oliver will fly out after the Patinack Farm Blue Diamond meeting at Caulfield on February 25 to get a chance to win another Hong Kong Group 1.
The top jockey has previously tasted success in Hong Kong on super sprinter Falvelon in 2000 and 2001 International Sprint as well as wining the Hong Kong International Jockey Challenge in 2003.
The Moore trained Irian will be lining up against local champ Ambitious Dragon in the Gold Cup after finishing well down the track behind him when tenth in the first leg of the Triple Crown, the Group 1 HK$8m The Stewards’ Cup over 1600m.
Moore’s best chance of beating Ambitious Dragon is with Xtension who made a late charge when second in The Stewards’ Cup when ridden by South African rider Jeff Lloyd.
Trainer Tony Millard said that Ambitious Dragon had overcome a recent setback and was just pleased his top class galloper is back.
“He’s back from that bad experience, that’s the main thing, he’s back!” said a delighted Millard after the Stewards’ Cup win. “I was a bit more confident today. Going into the Hong Kong Cup, we didn’t have a good run-in; he had a bad prep and going into the International race was just too hard.”
He said Ambitious Dragon is ready to step up to the 2000m of the Hong Kong Cup and the 2400m of the final leg of the Triple Crown, the Group I HK$8m Standard Chartered Champions and Charter Cup to be run on May 27.
Ambitious Dragon is in line to take out the HK$5m bonus on offer if he can win all three legs of the Triple Crown.
“I’m not somebody who puts the cart in front of the horse,” continued Millard, “but we will definitely go for the 2000m and then we will decide what we are going to do, but we are definitely going race by race.
“I don’t think the mile and a half of the HKG1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup will be a problem the way this horse can turn it on. Even today, I thought that Douglas could have gone a little bit later; he has a phenomenal turn of speed, the way that he can make it up.”
“I think Ambitious Dragon is a true champion – he hasn’t got a (best) distance.”
Irian is a Group 2 winner in Germany where he took out the 2009 German 2000 Guineas but is yet to collect a Group 1 victory in Hong Kong having been runner up on two occasions.