CALLAN Murray rode his 7th Gr1 winner (6th for Mike de Kock) aboard Hawwaam, the popular victor in Saturday’s Gr1 HF Oppenheimer Horse Chestnut Stakes at Turffontein. Not bad for a 23-year-old.

Murray, whose ambition led him to spells in Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore in recent years, has made marked improvement as a rider. The young man, once said by De Kock to have the “X” factor, is showing good judgement of pace and better balance, and he is one of the most committed riders in the game.

“I was humbled overseas, it made me appreciate opportunities and I learnt a lot,” Murray told Turf Talk on Saturday night. He described Hawwaam as a “special horse” and added: “He was in a good position early, settled well and then ran home very well.”

While Murray has forever ridden Hawwaam in work, especially over the last few months, this was his first ride on the Silvano colt in a race and he is likely to retain the mount for the Gr1 Champions Challenge on 27 June, a contest he won by four lengths under Anton Marcus last season.

Hawwaam was beautifully behaved at the start and while De Kock said the absence of racegoers may have had something to do with it, he praised the stable team for their hard work with him on the track and at the pens.

Mike commented: “Today Hawwaam walked around the ring quietly with the other horses and ran accordingly. Sheikh Hamdan is desperate to have him abroad and he’s good enough, he will fly the flag for SA.

“We have to think hard if we go to Durban or not. He may have to go into quarantine at the end of the month, after the Challenge.”

He quipped about Murray: “We’re making him famous!”

Hawwaam’s record shows 9 wins with 2 places from 12 starts, and earnings of R6 515 775. He is a Wilgerbosdrift/Mauritzfontein-bred from the wonder mare, Halfway To Heaven, by Jet Master.

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