Callan’s back in the big time with Triple Time

Neil Callan enjoyed his biggest success since returning from Hong Kong when the 33-1 shot took out the Royal Ascot opener.

The Iron Man's roar reverberates around Royal Ascot. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

David Morgan

Chief Journalist


It’s not often Neil Callan is lost for words, but Hong Kong’s former ‘Iron Man’ took a second or two to gather his thoughts and emotions after a longshot victory on Triple Time in the G1 Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot.

“I’m speechless for once, I’m lost for words,” the Irishman said when the long-armed mic was thrust his way in the immediate aftermath of success on the Sheikh Mohammed Obaid homebred son of Frankel.

The 2012 Queen Anne Stakes is often put forward as a candidate for Frankel’s most imperious performance: the great horse pulled to the lead past his pacemaker and continued to stretch further clear, in a more mature, controlled exhibition of dominance than his tearaway, adolescent 2,000 Guineas win of 13 months prior.


Callan tapped Triple Time’s inner Frankel, allowing the keen-going four-year-old to advance to the vanguard, after which the head dropped and the jaw relaxed. When Frankie Dettori challenged aboard the filly Inspiral, Callan asked for more and Triple Time found what was needed to seal a neck verdict.

Cue the famous Callan roar and fist-pump, more familiar at Sha Tin than this corner of Berkshire in recent times.     

“Umar (Triple Time’s groom) said to me on the way out of the chute, he said, ‘Ride him like his dad,’” Callan continued. “You know, when you see the way Frankel won the Guineas, he just dropped his hands and let him go, and this is what this horse is like.

“He’s just a bit sensitive in his mouth. He was throwing his head up a bit. The more rein I was giving him, the more he was racing on his own … When I got to the two-and-a-half (furlong mark) I let him roll and I really thought it was going to have to be a good one to get past him … It’s some feeling, Royal Ascot.”

After returning to Britain in July 2021, Callan had to be patient in finding his groove again, opting not to chase rides just for the sake of having one. His first season back brought 12 wins and a lucrative sales race success from trainer Marco Botti, with whom he enjoys a firm connection; last season Callan had a solid 67 wins including a Royal Ascot handicap success for Botti, and his old ally Ryan gave him the leg up on the G1 Sun Chariot Stakes heroine Fonteyn.

Callan currently has 39 wins on the board this term, and his sixth Royal Ascot win is far and away his biggest yet.

“When I came back from Hong Kong I didn’t really know what to expect,” he said. “I rode very competitively there, as I did here before I left, but you’re not guaranteed anything in this game, you work for what you get and I’m just lucky Kevin Ryan came back and gave me a bit of support.

“Kevin said to me last year, ‘Look I want to wait for the right horse,’ he gave me Fonteyn, she won the Sun Chariot, and now he’s given me this horse. He was so confident in this fella, Kevin, he said he’s the best horse he’s ever trained. It’s fantastic.”

The 'Iron Man' Neil Callan celebrates another Hong Kong winner. (Photo by Lo Chun Kit)

Ryan has known his share of success from his North Yorkshire base at Hambleton. His tally of past G1 wins includes The Grey Gatsby in the French Derby and Irish Champion Stakes, and Glass Slippers in the Prix de l’Abbaye and Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, to name only two of his top-level horses, but Triple Time, who missed a classic campaign due to injury and was first-up for the season, could top the lot.

“It wasn’t a surprise to us,” Ryan said of the longshot success. “Everyone involved in the horse including Sheikh Mohammed Obaid, we had a lot of faith in him. We spoke about this race and we had a plan in our head about how to ride him.”




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