Rispoli torn between staying and leaving

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 April, 2012, 12:00am


In-vogue Italian Umberto Rispoli said he is still a '50-50 chance' of extending his local riding licence, the youngster torn between his childhood dream of riding in France and overtures from Hong Kong Jockey Club officials desperate to maintain diversity in the jockey ranks.

Rispoli confirmed he is weighing up an offer to depart for France after Sunday's Audemars Piguet QE II Cup, in which he rides Japanese hope Rulership, to join the team of jockey agent Alexis Doussot, and where he will have rides for the powerful Mikel Delzangles team.

Chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges took the extraordinary step of personally pleading with the 23-year-old to stay, saying the rider's infectious personality and energetic style make him a perfect fit for the local scene.

Rispoli was flattered by the approach from Engelbrecht-Bresges and is now seriously considering extending his stay, particularly after another success yesterday aboard Gallant Mambo.

The win on the Tony Millard horse, his first for the yard, comes after a breakthrough double two weeks ago.

'Everyone is asking me to stay and it is making me very confused, it's 50 per cent stay, 50 per cent I leave,' explained Rispoli, adding that a decent ride in the BMW Champions Mile on May 6 could convince him to remain for longer.

'It's so much easier for me to catch rides now, because people can see you winning races and I think I've improved a lot. The first month was so hard, because I was on horses at 50 or 60 to one, horses with no chance.

'I was happy Alexis Doussot called me, because Italian jockeys don't get much recognition in France and that is my dream to ride there. But he called me before I got three winners here.' Doussot is well-known to Hong Kong fans as the agent to Maxime Guyon and Mickael Barzalona. With Barzalona now riding full-time for Godolphin, Rispoli could fill that void.

Delzangles yesterday confirmed he would support Rispoli, but stressed that Gregory Benoist was his stable jockey, the trainer also using Christophe Lemaire, which would further limit Rispoli's opportunities.

Engelbrecht-Bresges made a strong case for Rispoli to stay, leaving no time frame on a decision from the youngster, whose fitness was an added attraction to the club.

'It is important for us that the jockeys we have show stamina,' he said. 'But today, I really wanted to express to him that we appreciate him coming here and that he has never been critical or down that he didn't get rides, and that he pulled through, I think that is impressive.

'I think it would be great if he stayed here because he would add spice to the jockey ranks.

'It would be a pity if he were to go now, because he has established himself and has the confidence from trainers and owners to get rides.

'The decision is with him, and even if he goes to Europe, he is welcome to make another application, but it would be great if he stayed until the end of the season.'