Jockey Challenge shock as Neil Callan holds off Joao Moreira for honours
A rare Jockey Challenge win to a rider not named Joao Moreira had Neil Callan jokingly calling for prize money to the winning rider of the fixed-odds betting option.
Moreira had won the Jockey Challenge at the last seven meetings, but Callan's double on Tony Cruz-trained pair Romantic Touch and Doyeni gave him an early lead he didn't relinquish.
"I didn't even know I had won, but I probably would keep track of the score if there was a first prize," Callan said.
The Irishman may have came up just short on Blazing Speed in the Jockey Club Cup but he made a more than worthwhile contribution to Cruz's big day with half of the stable's four-win haul.
Both of the horses will be winning again too, according to Callan - in particular Romantic Touch, who seems to have again recaptured something like his best.
"When he came to Tony in the off-season, he seemed like he was a little bit dour and one-paced, but Tony has got that speed back into him and that allowed him to do what he did today," Callan said after he controlled the tempo in an 1,800m Class Two and Romantic Touch kicked away for a convincing win from stablemate Anticipation. "We knew he had some class, but now he has a bit of a turn of foot as well."
A Group One winner over a mile as a two-year-old in Australia and third in the BMW Hong Kong Derby earlier this year, Callan said a last-start third in the Group Three Sa Sa Ladies' Purse had put the writing on the wall.
"That was a great run, he probably should have won, and today the plan was to lead," he said. "He bowled along pretty well and once he straightened he put two lengths on them pretty quickly and he kept it going right to the line."
In the following race, Callan found a handy position from gate 14 on Doyeni, a horse that, on face value, had been disappointing first-up at Happy Valley.
"We thought he would handle it there because he had trialled well at the track, but it was a mistake taking him there," he said.
"He just got lost, he was looking all around at the lights and the grandstand - he had no idea what he was doing. Even though he is nearly five, he is still a bit of a baby, and because of a setback he had last season he hasn't had much racing.
"He is still going to get better, and he will get over more ground, too."
However, it wasn't all smooth sailing for Callan, copping a three-day careless riding suspension for his ride on runner-up Hard Ball Get in race two.