Callan hopes to be the toast of Spain aboard Sangria at Happy Valley

Neil Callan believes that the step up to 1650m will suit Sangria as the Spanish import looks to break his Hong Kong duck in the Class 4 St Andrew’s Challenge Quaich Handicap (1650m) at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.

Hong Kong has two Spanish-bred gallopers among the 1250-odd horses in training at Sha Tin currently, with both among declarations on Wednesday night. David Ferraris-trained Sangria is joined by Danny Shum’s Celestial Nova, who steps out in the nightcap, the Class 3 Stirling Handicap (1650m).

While neither will hit the heights of the most prominent current Hong Kong galloper to have come through Spain, French-bred multiple G1 winner Helene Paragon, Callan is hoping that Sangria (128lb) is now at a mark where he can break through, especially as he steps up beyond 1400m for the first time.

“Since he’s dropped to Class 4, he’s had a couple of decent runs,” Callan said at Sha Tin on Tuesday morning (21 November). “He’s at a good level, a good rating at the moment. He’s the right type of horse for the Happy Valley mile – he’s not very big, he’s well balanced, he’s got a lot of natural tactical speed. With all that together, I think he’s right in play.”

Sangria, who had six starts in France when named Money Maker, is an American Post half-brother to one of the most prominent Spanish-bred gallopers in recent times, multiple G1 placegetter Noozhoh Canarias. The Caradak gelding won up to a mile but found his best over 1400m.

Sangria finished unplaced in his last start in a Class 4 handicap at Sha Tin on 5 November, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club

However, Callan feels that Sangria is capable of handling the mile comfortably, particularly around the tight Happy Valley course.

“The Happy Valley mile is different to the Sha Tin mile, the competition is less demanding there,” the Irish rider stated. “A couple of runs back, he finished well from the back over 1200m with me aboard. That night, it felt like when he stepped up in distance with a little more experience, he’d be a little more relaxed and should see out a mile. He worked home well over 1400m last start and I think back to the Valley and to the 1650m is just what he needs now.

“Most importantly, he’s got a good gate (three). He’s got natural speed but he’s got a sprint that you have to use at the end, not the start. He’s going to get every conceivable chance of getting the mile strongly from a good gate. It’s not the most competitive race, so he goes in with a chance.”

Also lining up in the night’s feature are last-start placegetters Gentry (126lb), Empire Star (125lb) and Dutch Windmill (115lb), as well as Tony Millard-trained Sichuan Boss and Tony Cruz’s Multigogo.

The Class 4 St Andrew’s Challenge Quaich Handicap is the fifth of eight races and will jump at 9.20pm.