Hong and Kong, Chelmsford

Neil Callan celebrates winning his first Group 1 in Hong Kong on Blazing SpeedNeil Callan celebrates winning his first Group 1 in Hong Kong

PICTURE: Hong Kong Jockey Club

Report: Hong Kong, Sunday

Sha Tin: The Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (HKGr.1) 12f, turf, 3yo+

THE SCRIPT, the betting and pretty much everyone said Hong Kong’s final Group 1 of the season would crown Designs On Rome as the Horse of the Year on Sunday, but Blazing Speed (Tony Cruz/Neil Callan) kept that title in abeyance with a convincing victory in the stayers’ championship.

Blazing Speed was always prominent with cover in a steadily run race and quickened best from the top of the home straight to draw clear for a two and a half length margin from Dibayani with old-stager California Memory in third.

While the 2-5 favourite Designs On Rome could only finish fifth of the eight starters, the winner, formerly trained by James Fanshawe, notched a second success in the Triple Crown series having picked up the first leg, the Stewards’ Cup, over a mile in January.

On the latter occasion, Blazing Speed led on the line to deny Neil Callan a first Group 1 success in Hong Kong on Dan Excel. So it was fitting that the versatile son of Dylan Thomas would pay back the Irishman whose decision to continue at Sha Tin rather than return to Britain early for the Flat season has reaped rewards.

“Winning a Group 1 in Hong Kong is something I’ve always wanted to achieve and I’m thrilled to have done it, ” Callan beamed after his 23rd winner of the campaign.

“The horse settled for me beautifully in the run and down the back straight I knew he was in with a big chance with how relaxed he was. He gave me a terrific turn of foot and he really put them away.”

Callan will remain in Hong Kong until the end of the season on July 6 and expects to have Astaire for Kevin Ryan in the July Cup as one of his first big rides back in England the following weekend.

As for Designs On Rome, a triple Group 1 winner in recent months and most notably in the Derby and QEII Cup, he was always a long way off the pace. The step-up in distance from 10f to 12f may have stretched his stamina, but the notion that he simply did not see out the distance is not backed up by a final sectional split that matched the winner’s.

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