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Callan anticipates ��cheeky�� Classic Cup run from California Disegno


California Disegno steps into the cauldron of Sunday’s (21 February) HKG1 Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) after kicking off his Hong Kong career with two fairly low-key starts, but the Fastnet Rock gelding is no stranger to mixing it with the elite and jockey Neil Callan is hoping that those past skirmishes will stand his mount in good stead. 

A former Sir Michael Stoute trainee in Britain, the bay’s sole career success came at his second start as a juvenile, over 1400m on Kempton’s Polytrack. Despite failing to score since, California Disegno displayed a smart level of form in the UK including when two lengths third to subsequent European champion Golden Horn in the Listed Feilden Stakes last April and third behind December’s G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase winner Highland Reel in a 2400m G3 at Goodwood in July.

Switched to Tony Cruz’s stable, California Disegno stepped out for his local debut at Sha Tin on 27 December sporting the red and yellow silks synonymous with the now-retired dual G1 Hong Kong Cup hero California Memory. The gelding finished an off-radar 12th in that 2000m Class 2 handicap. But three and a half weeks later, with Callan up top for the first time, the Irish-bred hinted that he had settled into his new surroundings with a meritorious third in a 1650m Class 2. 

“I haven’t been on him for any of his work but I rode him at Happy Valley last time and he ran a good race to finish third,” said Callan. “He feels to me like he wants more ground. That was 1650 metres and his form and his pedigree are crying out that he wants 2000 metres, so the step up to 1800 on Sunday is a plus.”

California Disegno hails from the family of Divine Proportions and Whipper, being out of the Lingfield Oaks Trial (2300m) second Seven Magicians, herself a half-sister to Ocean Silk, who found only Islington a length her superior when runner-up in the G1 Yorkshire Oaks (2400m) of 2003. That breeding offers hope that the four-year-old could yet emerge as one of his generation’s leading lights. 

“He was a sold Group 3 horse in England and he’s got a good pedigree,” said Callan. “Tony says he’s improved a hell of a lot since his last run. I think he’ll run a good race but we’re under no illusions - we’re taking on horses like John Moore’s Werther, who’s already favourite for the Derby, but he is a nice horse, for sure. Werther looks quite strong and there are a few others in there, but I think California Disegno can run a cheeky race.”

The 12 entries hold the promise of a cracking renewal. The John Size-trained Sun Jewellery won the first major four-year-old test, the HKG1 Hong Kong Classic Mile last month, holding the fast-finishing and somewhat unlucky Werther by a neck. The Ricky Yiu-trained Blizzard ran on for third and is another talented contender who, like Sun Jewellery, has stamina issues to address.

Throw into the mix classy imports such as G1 St James’s Palace Stakes (1600m) third Consort, English Derby (2400m) fourth and Irish Derby (2400m) third Giovanni Canaletto, G1 winners Friends Of Ka Ying and The Monarch, as well Green Dispatch, White Magic, McQueen and the improving Eastern Express and the second stop on the road to the HKG1 BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m - 20 March) is set to be a fascinating affair.




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