Resilient Rispoli keeps knocking and door opens

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 April, 2012, 12:00am

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Umberto Rispoli might only have cracked it for his first wins on Monday and he might not yet have caught the public consciousness like some other young visitors before him, but the Italian has shown an abundance of the talent necessary to succeed here. And first and foremost is the ability to take a punch and keep going.

As we have said here many times, any expatriate of sufficient standing to warrant a licence is probably used to winning at least 100 races a year at home. So for Rispoli to have been winless from 73 mounts in his seven weeks before Monday must have been unsettling, but his attitude seemed to hold up well.

Cheering him on is the Jockey Club itself, keen to see diversity amongst the sources for jockeys and just as keen that a young rider like Rispoli is willing to tough it out to get there in the end.

Some thought has, in the past decade, gone into the cycling through of local jockeys. Whether quite as much goes into thinking about the cycling through of expats, we're not so certain.

There has to be more of a balance between offering owners and trainers the names they have known for many years and offering them newer, lesser known club riders who are on the rise and hungrier for the challenge.

Lord knows we have plenty of empathy with the middle aged, but to keep the scene fresh requires some churning of jockeys.

Too often, when the club does chase new faces, they are jockeys who are already heavy hitters somewhere and can't see the point in leaving a good gig to start low on the food chain here. Because, for all the chest thumping and proud talk of what a privilege it is for any jockey to receive a licence here, the sums just don't add up if your career is already going well.

It did once, for reasons the Jockey Club has been desperate to consign to history, but the landscape is different now. Hong Kong remains attractive but is not compelling any more.

You do the maths. The top four stables were, until Darren Beadman's accident anyway, pretty well tied up, and that may still be the case if Brett Prebble and John Moore continue to get along.

Douglas Whyte will ride 100 winners any year; add the next four finishers in the championship and you can count on near enough to half the season's races already.

The resurgence of the local jockeys in the last five or six years means a chunk of winners going their way - last year 245 wins - which takes the proportion of winners spoken for to probably 75 per cent.

Feel free to leave your existence as a big fish in your own pond to start at the bottom and squabble over the remainder.

In the old days just a few, correctly anticipated wins made it all worthwhile and it could work for a much larger number of jockeys, but now it's about prize-money, and that means a good volume of winners is required.

That is what makes getting top established names difficult - not being able to wave the carrot that they will end up with significantly more money.

With Zac Purton, Tye Angland and Tim Clark, the club sourced younger riders who may not have had so many big scores on the board in Australia but were well on their way, and saw Hong Kong as an experience as well as a place to improve themselves. Others - Craig Williams is a standout example - have found Hong Kong the making of them.

Purton is an unqualified success - particularly given that he has done it with hardly a ride from the heavyweight stables. Angland has already proved worthy of his place and Clark likewise. And they are all still improving. Many of the established riders are in their forties or staring down that barrel, while these younger guys are the foundation for the future. Maxime Guyon and Mickael Barzalona have dipped their toe in the water and now Rispoli looks a golden chance for the club to secure a longer-term success.

In terms of his riding, Rispoli needs, like most Europeans when they arrive, to work on getting out of the gates, which is vital in the style of racing here. That aside, he had ridden well enough here even before Monday's double, just without the ammunition to make it count. Tony Cruz made it clear there will be chances for Rispoli with his yard, even when Matthew Chadwick isn't suspended, and that is the kind of break that will take the Italian a long way.

Rispoli now can apply for an extension to his contract, which ends on the 29th of the month, and the way he was talking about not wanting to return to Italy in its current state, it looks likely. He will be a welcome addition to the roster on a longer-term basis, a nod to diversity and he has already shown the character to make it work.