Callan's saddle Blazing as Speed leaves Rome in his wake
Irish jockey celebrates his biggest Hong Kong win as he spoils the party for Moore's equine hero in Champions & Chater Cup upset
Blazing Speed took a chill pill, took a deep breath and relaxed and Neil Callan was calling it mission accomplished even at the halfway mark of their upset win in the HK$8 million Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup.
The three 2,400m races a year at Sha Tin are run so much alike that it should never surprise how often they surprise, but it happened again as Tony Cruz-trained Blazing Speed flipped the form on its head to leave rising star, Designs On Rome, in his dust.
This season's 2,400m events have been as tactical as ever, won by clever rides on Dominant, Bubble Chic and Blazing Speed - all of them unexpected - and the change of rhythm meant everything to the winner and the horse who was meant to reign.
"We didn't know about the 2,400m with him, but he'd won at 2,000m in the UK and, the way it was run, you know any horse can sprint for 600m," Callan grinned after the biggest money win of his career.
"When I went past the winning post the first time around, I'd got one out and one back but, most important, he got there relaxed. Once he did that, even down the back when the pace slackened right off, I never had to take hold. Once he was relaxed like that, I said to myself 'I don't care where he runs now, I've done my job and he'll run as well as he can run.'"
Despite the first half being just a steady working pace, the first four runners still managed to break away on the field, as the favourites sitting in the back of the field waited for something to take them forward and waited until too late.
From the 800m, the leaders picked up the pace and looping the field from the rear to get to them suddenly wasn't an option, but looping to go clear was still in Callan's hand.
"About three quarters of the way down the straight, with the sun behind us, I was looking for the shadows," said Callan. "When I couldn't see any, I thought I must have put a good gap between us and when I looked at the big screen, I just said 'come on boy, get to the line!"
"It's my biggest win in Hong Kong and the biggest money race I've won but it isn't about the money, it's the prestige. I love the buzz of winning a big race - my kids will be so chuffed."
Perhaps as chuffed as Cruz, who won the race with California Memory last year - and the grey on the comeback trail was third again - but harboured some doubts about the assignment.
"He was unknown at 2,400m but we thought from his pedigree he might run it, but we weren't confident," he said. "In the Gold Cup, he got bumped by other horses, which didn't help him run the 2,000m, but today he was a different horse with cover and relaxed."
It was supposed to be the race where Designs On Rome simply put a highlighter through his claims to being Horse Of The Year but the $14 favourite found the different tempo, and perhaps a tough season, left him too much to do and fifth placing was his lot.
"Can't quite put my finger on it at the moment. Usually in his races, they back off a bit mid-race and give him time to catch up and travel. Today there was never one part where he got travelling and when I came outside Dibayani to make a move, he took time to lengthen where he usually makes up four lengths straight away," said jockey Tommy Berry.
"He's run the quickest last 400m and 200m, he hasn't disappointed us. He's had a long prep and hasn't had easy races, he's been up against the best and proven himself. He'll be back next campaign."
It was left to Dibayani, with Zac Purton putting him in front of Designs On Rome this time instead of behind him, and California Memory to fill the placings, with Moore's other well-fancied runner Dominant also disappointing.