A bit of daring and a bit of inside knowledge combined as Neil Callan took the ride of the night and a breakthrough victory for strong stayer Sharp Sailor at Happy Valley on Wednesday.
Winless in 10 prior starts, Sharp Sailor completed a double for Callan after making a big mid-race move in the 2,200m Mars Handicap that proved decisive.
Settling last early, Callan made the decision to round up the whole field from the 900m mark and caught his rivals napping.
“They weren’t going slow but they were steady and it just wasn’t fast enough for me,” Callan said. “These 2,200m races are always a bit messy so I thought I’d make the first move and I knew the horse from when he was with Marco Botti in England. He won a race at Newmarket one day making a long sustained run so I thought I’d attempt the same thing tonight when the opportunity was there.”
And as soon as Callan took off, he knew he’d made the right choice.
“His response for me was instant and when he got around them so quickly, I was confident he’d have enough left to win the race – I knew the 2,200m definitely didn’t pose any hurdles,” Callan said.
After Super Sprinter had won the previous, Sharp Sailor gave trainer Danny Shum Chap-shing an alliterative double in his absence – he is holidaying in Japan – but Callan’s earlier win on Acclaimed Light for Paul O’Sullivan had a little significance as owner David Boehm, of Dan Excel and Happy Zero fame, had never had a winner for any trainer but John Moore.
“I think I’m the only one apart from John to have a horse for David so it’s a bit of a dodgy stat,” laughed O’Sullivan. “But great to win one for him. This horse tries hard but he isn’t very big, he lacks confidence in amongst horses and those things limit him. Maybe he’ll toughen up with more maturity but he’s put his head out at the right time tonight anyway.”
Also putting his head out for his first win was the Almond Lee-trained Excellence in Class Five and he won by a clearer margin to give Zac Purton his first win for Lee since July 2012.
Young Irish rider Oisin Murphy will be putting in a vote for Chris So Wai-yin-trained Yo-Yo Da as Horse of the Year after scoring back to back victories on the honest six-year-old in circumstances that even his trainer had trouble believing.
“I thought the horse was in good form and had a chance if he got the lead alone again, like he did last time,” said So. “Usually when you get away with that once, the next time you don’t – somebody comes looking for you – but they left him alone again in front and he kept going. Oisin did everything right and I really like this jockey. He can do well here.”
Kei Chiong Ka-kei missed a winning ride recently on Wonderful Journey after being sidelined with a minor injury but she was back on board and made no mistake on the Ricky Yiu Poon-fai-trained sprinter.
“I think her five-pound claim definitely helped in the close finish and she knows the horse, he owed her that one,” Yiu said.
The win came at a cost to the apprentice though, copping a two-meeting suspension and fined HK$10,000 for careless riding.