Neil Callan called Blazing Speed the toughest horse he has ever ridden and reiterated his offer to give the four-time Group One winner ‘a nice home’ after the gutsy chestnut was retired.
Blazing Speed retires having won more than HK$50 million in prize money courtesy of eight wins, eight seconds and four thirds in a 44 start career spent mostly racing at Group level.
“If I had to come up with three words to describe Blazing Speed they would be tough, genuine and classy,” Callan said. ”As a jockey, you can feel when a horse is giving his all, and it doesn’t really come across when you are watching on television. With Blazing Speed I know that every time I rode him – win, lose or draw – he gave me everything he had. You could just feel it.” Not only did the gelding display an incredible will to win, he also showed rare versatility, with wins at top level over 1,600m, 2,000m and 2,400m.
“To win Group Ones at three different trips like that is special and he was able to do that because he was so simple to ride,” Callan said.
The son of Dylan Thomas didn’t always show that type of tractability, with trainer Tony Cruz, to whom the horse arrived with after an early-career transfer from Caspar Fownes, initially limiting the horse to a mile and 1,800m races.
“He was a very headstrong horse, originally he was running only running a mile and couldn’t get further because he was pulling so hard,” Callan said.
After a breakthrough Group One in the 2014 Stewards’ Cup under Mirco Demuro and an unplaced run in the Dubai Turf for Joao Moreira, Callan formed a long association with Blazing Speed.
The Irish jockey rode the horse in 23 of his final 27 starts, the horse granting him his first Group One win at Sha Tin and helping build his profile.
“I got him and we clicked, and then when we started stepping in distance, that’s when he came into his own,” he said.
Blazing Speed beat Staphanos, Criterion and Designs On Rome in the 2015 Audemars Piguet QEII Cup, and twice won the Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup, including last year’s edition in a thrilling three-way duel with Victory Magic and Werther.
That was Blazing Speed’s last win but the eight-year-old, who started his career with James Fanshawe, continued to race well throughout this season, and capped his career with second to Werther in the same race late last month.
As well as the four Group One wins, Blazing Speed was narrowly in a number of big races, including this year’s Group One Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup, in the type of fighting finish that became the horse’s trademark.
It is unclear what plans are for Blazing Speed, with Callan having previously offered “to give him a nice home” in Newmarket, England.
“I’ve been going on about it for the last 12 months to Tony and the owners, we’d love to have him,” Callan said. “We’ve got some big green paddocks for him, and a climate he will enjoy, he deserves to go out in a field, he would have the best life.”