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Romantic hopes for Callan in Sha Tin��s weekend feature


Romantic Touch (118lb) has long threatened to make the breakthrough to Group race winner in Hong Kong and jockey Neil Callan is hopeful that will come in Saturday’s (6 February) HKG3 Centenary Vase (Handicap, 1800m) at Sha Tin Racecourse.

The talented five-year-old, a G1 winner in Australia when taking the J.J. Atkins Stakes as a two-year-old, has made the frame in three of his four Pattern race attempts since arriving in Hong Kong. Third to Luger in last year’s HKG1 BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m), Tony Cruz’s charge placed second at the course and distance in November’s HKG3 Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse (Handicap) and filled the same position last time when a half-length behind the re-opposing Flame Hero (119lb) in the HKG3 January Cup (Handicap) over the distance at Happy Valley on 6 January.

“He’s really taken his form to a good level this season and Tony has him racing well,” said Callan, who partnered the gelding to the second of his two local wins, a course and distance Class 2 handicap on 21 November. “He’s a no-nonsense sort of horse, he can go forward and make it, and, if not, he can just sit in. In that respect he’s very adaptable and he’s also pulled a good gate (5), which is important.

“He’s in good form. Last time he just got a bit pestered on the lead in the mid-section when I wanted to get a little breather into him, but he was still courageous to not be worn down until the last 50 metres.”

Cruz believes the result would have been different had another of Saturday’s contenders, Khaya (117lb) - ultimately eighth - not revved up on the front-running Romantic Touch’s outside flank. “If he’d been left alone I reckon he would have won,” he said.

Romantic Touch, 10th to Maurice in December’s G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile, trialled over 1200m on the all-weather track 10 days ago. The bay looked the part as he led throughout to finish three lengths and more ahead of the second and third, Harbour Master (118lb) and Helene Super Star (128lb), both of whom will oppose on Saturday.

“The trial the other day just blew away any cobwebs - it’s a month since his last run - and it proved that he looks well and is in good shape,” said Callan. “He’s proved that he’s up to Group 1 standard, he was third in the Derby last year and he showed in the January Cup that he’s right there at this level.”

Cruz believes the 1800m trip is Romantic Touch’s optimum but a victory at the weekend could see the Northern Meteor gelding stretch out to 2000m again. 

“I think 1800m is Romantic Touch’s best distance but if he wins this we’ll take him to the (G1) Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m) - there’d be nowhere else for him to go.”

The high-class field also features G1 winner Dominant (130lb) and fellow talented stayer Helene Happy Star (131lb), as well as Hong Kong’s dirt track star Gun Pit, top-weighted with 133lb. Packing Llaregyb (120lb), Top Act (114lb), Kabayan (113lb), Secret Weapon (113lb), Celestial Smile (113lb) and Bubble Chic (113lb) complete the 14.



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