Neil Callan will ride Limitless in the BMW Hong Kong Derby in just over two weeks but first the Peter Ho Leung-trained talent gets a chance to gain vital race experience and fitness in the Taipa Handicap on Sunday at Sha Tin.
Limitless burst into Derby calculations with a barnstorming last-to-first performance for jockey Silvestre de Sousa over 1,400m at Sha Tin two weeks ago.
But with de Sousa committed to Pakistan Star for the Derby, Callan got the call-up from Ho in what is a key run for the inexperienced galloper.
Even though Limitless won the Britannia Stakes at Royal Ascot, when known as Defrocked, Callan said the son of Lope De Vega is still a “work in progress” and needs more racing.
“Although his race record reads well on paper he had only had five starts in England and now two starts here,” Callan said.
“It’s a big step up 1,400m to 2,000m, he just wanted to see what he is like stretching him out to 1,800m. What he did last start was very impressive, but 2,000m is a different story and he will have it all to do on raceday.
“He is obviously a little bit nervy and the best way to ride him for now is to put him to sleep out the back, forget the first half of the race and let him finish off. He can run off a very good sectional if everything goes right for him and get a smooth run.”
Callan galloped Limitless on Thursday morning and came away even more impressed.
“He gave me a fantastic feel. He is a really nice horse, when you wake him up, oh my God, he is pretty instant with the acceleration he can produce,” the jockey said after Limitless spotted stablemate Ten Flames a big start and moved well to pick him up late.
“We just worked on the dirt with a partner horse over 1,200m, I was 10 lengths off him down the back and turned four lengths behind him, and we just cruised straight past him.”
Limitless can not only gain some more race craft but also deny four rivals a place in the Derby field with a win.
Circuit Hassler, Prawn Baba, Raghu and Who Dat Singa all remain in Derby entries but need to win Sunday’s Class Two to secure a place in the 14-horse field.
The Tony Cruz-trained Circuit Hassler bounced back from a disappointing run in the Hong Kong Classic Mile with a strong second to stablemate California Disegno last start.
Jockey Matthew Chadwick retains the ride and said although a wide gate had made it more difficult, the extra ground would suit Circuit Hassler, a Group Two winner over 2,100m in New Zealand.
“He has got to win to get in, and I hope he does because the further he gets the better,” Chadwick said. “He is a real stayer and he can keep up a gallop. The way last start played out really didn’t suit him as he ended up back a couple of lengths further back than we wanted to be. If they had gone a more genuine tempo I would have won.”
The four-year-olds won’t have it to themselves though, with a number of in-form older horses taking part in the extended ratings band (105-80) event including last start Group Three winner Supreme Profit and Solar Hei Hei, who runs for the third straight weekend.
Solar Hei Hei has been unlucky at his last two runs; blocked for a run over 1,400m two starts back and the gelding was then trapped wide over a mile last time out.
Now trainer David Hall goes to the seven-pound claim of Jack Wong Ho-nam in search of some relief at the handicaps.
As well as the Hong Kong Macau Trophy, Sunday also features a high quality Class One sprint featuring Peniaphobia and Not Listenin’tome, squaring off against up-and-coming speedster Mr Stunning.