04/29/2011 12:08PM

Sha Tin: Ambitious Dragon looms large in QE II Cup


The 8-year-old mare River Jetez may be in the best form of her career, having finished second by less than a length to Presvis in the Dubai Duty Free Stakes on March 26. A length and a half and one place behind her that night came Wigmore Hall, who had the worst racing luck of any horse in the Duty Free. Both horses rate a decent chance in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup on Sunday at Sha Tin in Hong Kong, but local talent Ambitious Dragon, flattered by the result of the Champions Mile last week at Sha Tin, might prove to be a handful.

Ambitious Dragon won the Group 1 Hong Kong Classic Cup on Feb. 20, and a month later stretched out to the 10-furlong trip of the QE II and scored a three-quarter-length victory over Xtension, a performance shone brighter when Xtension returned with a solid score on Monday in the Champions Mile. Trained by Anthony Millard and ridden by Maxime Guyon, New Zealand-import Ambitious Dragon has a home-course advantage around the right-handed bends at Sha Tin.

Turning right apparently is not the favorite activity of Wigmore Hall, second last summer at Arlington in the Secretariat Stakes. Badly blocked before running on strongly in the Duty Free, Wigmore Hall reportedly has not been keen to turn right during recent Hong Kong training sessions, though his exercise rider, Gillian Dolman, predicted Wigmore Hall would handle the right-hand bend while racing.

River Jetez, meanwhile, had a good winter in Dubai for trainer Mike de Kock and returns to a 10-furlong distance over which she has had past success.

Making his sixth straight appearance in the QE II is Viva Pataca, who won the race in 2007 and scored a 15-1 upset in last year’s edition. Viva Pataca enters on a six-race losing streak, however, and at age 8 might have lost a couple of steps.

◗ Also in action Sunday at Sha Tin is high-class sprinter Sacred Kingdom, one of nine horses entered in the Group 2 Sprint Cup.

◗ J J the Jet Plane, one of the world’s top turf sprinters and winner of the Al Quoz Sprint on the Dubai World Cup Card last month, suffered a career-threatening suspensory ligament injury while training in Dubai this past week, and has been sent back to his native South Africa for treatment.