Glorious Days slays the Dragon; Gold-Fun on the rise in Hong Kong
"It was run so the overall time would be quick and it was, so it's a very good performance for him. He's improved through the winter and probably he's reached his best today."
Glorious Days leveled the score at two apiece with Ambitious Dragon for the season as he avenged defeat in last month's Group 1 Hong Kong Mile. He stopped the clock at 1:33 3/5 after settling fifth in the run behind the pacesetting Leading City.
"I could have been anywhere from the break," Whyte recapped, "but they took me along too quickly for my liking, so I've popped back and it was as if I've separated two races. I've had four in front of me and the rest behind and I was very comfortable where I was.
"He was stronger today than he felt last time and he ran on with a bit of purpose. Last time I thought I rode a perfect race and Ambitious Dragon was just too good on the day. Today I waited a fraction longer but I think had I gone earlier he would have still quickened up; and he was very strong at the line, which he hasn't been in the past. The penny's dropping and he's transforming into a racehorse!
"He just hasn't had the mental game -- he's a year behind them, he's like a young kid that hasn't matured or grown up. I've always said to John, there's so much untapped potential there and let's just hope he can continue to maintain his form -- he'll be a force to reckon with in those mile races."
Although the Stewards' Cup is the first jewel of the Hong Kong Triple Crown for older horses, Glorious Days is not expected to advance to the longer races, preferring to stick to shorter trips. He could head next to the Group 1 Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup at about seven furlongs at Sha Tin March 17 with an overseas option later in the season.
"There's a 1,400-meter race and other mile races, so it's mapped out for us in Hong Kong," Size said. "I think the Yasuda Kinen's (a Grade 1 in Japan in June) an ideal race for him. He went last year. He's had the experience, he traveled beautifully, so I think he'll go back a different horse this year and he'll probably perform a lot better."
Ambitious Dragon failed to reproduce his best form, with Hong Kong's two-time Horse of the Year lacking the electric turn of foot that has characterized his finest performances.
"Prior to straightening out it was a little bit tight and I had to hold my ground a bit," jockey Zac Purton said, "but he was able to go through there and I thought coming into the straight I was still going to win the race. But when I let him go, he just never let down today like he has been."
Whyte's fears began to be realized as runner-up Garlic Boy stormed home from well back under Purton, but the line came in time for the redoubtable Gold-Fun who was making it three consecutive wins from four Hong Kong starts.
"He's got a phenomenal turn-of-foot and what I've really liked about him today is he dug down," Whyte noted. "His effort was for the full 400 meters, which you don't find often, so he was tough, thorough.
"It wasn't a big margin, but that doesn't matter. He still came home first and he did a great job," added the jockey, who won the race previously atop Tiber in 2004.
Gibson hailed Whyte's tactical nous and indicated that the winner could head to the Group 1 Hong Kong Classic Cup next time on February 17, where he could meet stablemate Akeed Mofeed.
"You've got to give a lot of credit to Douglas because it wasn't the race we envisaged," the trainer revealed. "I thought it was quite a messy race. We certainly didn't envisage hitting the front that soon and that was one of our only concerns; but Douglas, being the top international jockey he is, adapted accordingly and I think the horse will be better over a longer distance as well.
"We're very lucky -- we've got a few options but this horse has got to run, he's got to learn, and it's very likely that he'll run in a month's time (in the Hong Kong Classic Cup)."
The Size-trained Happy Era took third, a further length back, while the John Moore-trained Ashkiyr hinted at his potential with a running-on fourth on only his second Hong Kong start.
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