Patience and homework finally pay off as Callan gets the monkey off his back
British jockey Neil Callan's big past-the-post flourish with the whip said it all after the Pak Tam Au Handicap on the all-weather yesterday.
The Me Tsui Yu-sak-trained Care Free Luck was Callan's first local victory after five weeks and 41 mounts of trying, but he said he had done his homework on Hong Kong racing before he set foot at Sha Tin in November and hadn't been letting it get to him.
'You know this is the biggest racing scene in the world and that feels great,' he said after the narrow Class Four victory put him on the scoreboard. 'It's about time. It's hard not to let it get to you when you are working hard and just battling to get the first one home, but I came here knowing what to expect. I'd been asked once or twice by the Jockey Club to come here and I had looked into it and done my homework on the place in the past couple of years as a result. So I knew that it can be a difficult place to break the ice and I haven't let it get into my head at all.'
Callan had said in November he would be sticking out his contract here, whether the bounce of the ball went his way or not, and the first event yesterday saw him improve his form line in finishing second on Rocket And Gold in the Class Five.
'It's a bit cold at home! And seriously, I'm not the sort to leave early anyway,' he said. 'I made a commitment and I'll stick to that. I brought my family out so I get to spend some time with them and that helps to keep me sane.'
Though punters sent Care Free Luck out at long odds, Callan said he had high hopes for the three-year-old.
'I rode him in a couple of trials on the dirt and to be honest, I thought if I was going to ride a winner then it might be him,' Callan said. 'I think coming to the all-weather really helped make the difference. He's got loads of American blood in his pedigree so the surface is probably what he wanted. He will get further than the 1,200m he won at today and he's only a youngster so there might be more ahead. And hopefully, that will be the start of something for both of us.'
It was a day that could have turned really golden for Callan, who wound up with the win and three second placings, and went within two points of knocking off Douglas Whyte in the Jockey Challenge.