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Neil Callan relishes Happy Valley opportunities: ‘you can win on something that shouldn’t be winning

While many jockeys fall victim to the tight turns of Happy Valley, veteran rider Neil Callan says he relishes trips to the iconic city track.

The popular Irishman believes Happy Valley gives jockeys opportunities to take chances they would not normally get at Sha Tin, opening the door for more unfancied horses in the market to run a race.

Callan’s numbers back up his theory, with his winning strike rate rising from 5 per cent to 8 per cent at the city track while his place strike rate improves to 29 per cent from 20 per cent at Sha Tin.

“When I ride at Sha Tin, I don’t get the same sort of rides and horses that aren’t good enough get found out, and found out quickly,” Callan said.

“It is quite open, the pace is usually pretty honest, everybody seems to get their run so the best horse usually wins.

“I like Happy Valley as a track because you can be on a horse that has an outside place chance but given the right run, the right pace and you take a chance that you wouldn’t take at Sha Tin, it might pay off and you win.

“I like that because you can win on something that shouldn’t be winning, I get a bit of a kick out of that.”

Callan takes five rides into Wednesday night’s meeting and he is confident he will be able to leave with at least one winner.

He again teams up with John Moore in the Class Three O’Brien Handicap (1,200m) with First Responder.

The Irish import boasts form behind top European sprinter Ten Sovereigns and Callan believes he is ready to land his maiden Hong Kong win after finishing second a fortnight ago.

The jockey now has a good understanding of the three-year-old after partnering him in a trial and both of his starts this team.

“He trialled really well at Conghua and the plan in the trial wasn’t to lead but he just hit the bit so fast that I ended up in front,” Callan said.

“He just cruised to the line so good so I thought he was probably versatile.

“When he ran first-up at Happy Valley, he didn’t jump as clean as he normally does but I let him roll forward and sat outside the leader but when I came into the straight he just dropped away.

“Last time John said we would ride him quieter and then he hit the line really strong and he travelled through the race quite nicely. I think he can break through.”

Callan will also ride Apollos Bow, Kiram, Royal Racer and Charizard on the night.

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