Neil Callan hoping Giavellotto can spring a surprise at Doncaster's St Leger

Jockey Neil Callan says he has exceeded his own expectations since returning from a decade in Hong Kong, with the rider looking to Giavellotto for a Classic surprise in Saturday’s Cazoo St Leger.

Callan was among the leading jockeys in Britain when he left to further his career in Hong Kong and on his first season back after 11 years, the Irishman is set to have his first ride in a British Classic since his return.

He will partner the Marco Botti-trained son of Mastercraftsman, who has won two of his five starts this season after making a winning debut on the all-weather surface at Kempton last December.

Twice a runner-up in the Flat jockeys' championship in the UK, Callan is bidding to return to the upper echelons in the weighing room and with 53 winners on the board already, including partnering the Botti-trained Rising Star to a 40-1 success in the Kensington Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, he is in high demand.

"It is nice to be home and riding winners," said Callan. "I've exceeded my own expectations, as I thought it was going to be a bit harder than it has been.

"I suppose getting a Royal Ascot winner helped, and then getting a winner at York.

"You just try to take the opportunities you get and try to open up a few more doors. You never know what it leads to. You need just one good horse to propel you further up the ladder."

Callan admits that Giavellotto may not be that horse, yet he sees further improvement in the colt, who is as big as 33-1 to land the St Leger.

"I've won on him a couple of times. He is a nice horse and he has slowly progressed rather than quickly, but while he has progressed and deserves his chance, whether he will be good enough for a Classic is a question," said Callan.

"He is a lovely, big horse and will go on any ground. But obviously coming into a Classic is a different kettle of fish. We are under no illusions."

Giavellotto, who has worn a hood on his last two starts, showed his inexperience when drifting off a true line when runner-up to Nathanael Greene at Haydock on his penultimate run, and again during a five-length success at Newmarket.

"It shows you he still has to put things together," added the rider. "He jumped the winning line at Newmarket, but he has got something left. To be doing that at the end of a mile-and-six (furlong) race, he's obviously not taking too much energy out of him.

"Coming into a Classic and a Group One is a completely different ball-game, but he definitely has progression in him.

"He is a nice, big, strong, good-moving, galloping horse and he will go on any ground.

"At Haydock, he cruised up and had any amount in the tank and I held the William Haggas horse in (Nathanael Greene), and got first run, but he threw the race away by drifting left and drifting right, and the Haggas horse came around him and beat him. It just goes to show he is still a work in progress.

"I can see him turning into a Cup horse, but what sort of a Cup horse? He is not going to turn into an Ascot Gold Cup horse - he is not good enough for that. He will get two miles on his head.

"When they mentioned on the TV after he won at Newmarket about going for a Champion Hurdle, the lads in the yard were pretty annoyed, because they think he is way too good for hurdling.

"It just goes to show you how much they think of the horse.

"At the end of the day, he is a nice horse and can develop into a nice Cup horse in the future. Whatever he does in the Leger will be a bonus. Some of those horses taking him on look way above, but he is in there and he is going to take his chance, and why not?"

Hoo Ya Mal holds much more obvious claims in the Classic, having supplemented his Derby second with third place in the Gordon Stakes before landing the March Stakes at Goodwood last month.

The colt is set to head to Australia following his Doncaster run, but current handler George Boughey is brimming with enthusiasm as his charge approaches his ultimate target.

He told SBK: "It's very exciting. Hoo Ya Mal was very good in the Group Three March Stakes on ground which was a little bit gluey. It was a test of stamina for him, and I'm delighted he got the job done and I couldn't be happier with how he's been since that run.

"David Probert is booked; he gave the horse a great ride in The Derby. He's a horse who takes a bit of knowing and David knows the horse well from riding him at Kingsclere (when previously trained by Andrew Balding) so we're looking forward to it."

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