QE II Cup is the biggest win of my career, says Rispoli
Lightning struck again for Italian jockey Umberto Rispoli as he offered Hong Kong his preferred farewell and signed off with sensational Audemars Piguet QE II Cup win on Rulership yesterday.
Rispoli had won his only ride on the Katsuhiko Sumii-trained stayer during a contract in Japan and was six weeks into his Hong Kong contract last month and still struggling for the first winner when his engagement for the QE II became the signal for everything to turn around.
'In Japan last year, I won a Group One sprint on my last day so I was hoping I could finish the same way again. It's a dream for me,' said Rispoli, 23, who declared it the biggest win of his career.
'I have to thank the owner, Mr Yoshida [Katsumi], for having the confidence in me to give me this horse for such a big race. He was very well in the mornings this week but I worry for the ground after the heavy rain and I worry for the slow pace.'
But it was Rispoli's positive ride into the first turn that took the box seat and took the race by the scruff of the neck, placing him to take advantage of the tempo and paving the way to a hollow victory by almost four lengths.
'I just wanted to catch a good jump because before the race I knew the pace would be slow. When I did that, Rulership was a little keen at first but as soon as Fay Fay and Treasure Beach came across and I got cover, then he relaxed,' Rispoli said.
'And the pace was slow but it didn't bother him. I was worried because he wanted to overrace last year but he is different now - he's another horse. Big muscle, he changed his mentality and he's very smart. He relaxed even with the slow pace.'
Rulership didn't even have to go around a horse on the home turn, railing up under the leader Fay Fay (Douglas Whyte), who raced like a tired horse and came off the fence before straightening.
'I saw Douglas come off the rail and I didn't know why, but I thought 'I will only get one chance at this' so I put my horse through and he was not afraid,' Rispoli said. 'In the last 300m, he was a machine and I think he can win an even bigger race than this.'
Rispoli finished with six wins for his 10-week stint, and leaves to take up a job with Mikel Delzangles in France, but vowed he would be back next season.
'You know, it is a very tough place here. One month, no winner was tough but I want to come back and next season I will come back for a long licence,' he said.
Rulership may be back, too, with Sumii now aiming the five-year-old at the Takarazuka Kinen at home in June, but indicating the December internationals were high on his wish list of subsequent targets.
Trainer Caspar Fownes will head to the Singapore International Airlines Cup with second-placed Thumbs Up (Brett Prebble), who simply had no answer as Rulership turned into the straight lengths ahead of him, then sizzled down the final 400m in 21.6 seconds.
'He was impossible to run down doing that but my bloke has run a cracker,' said Fownes.
'We tried to have a bit closer early but it didn't work out and he had to go back and was up against it in that slow pace. Thumbs Up is going as well as he can and if he can draw a gate and race handier, he can win one of these.'
Sweet Orange filled third, unsuited again by the tempo but at least with a clear trip this time, while Zaidan pleased jockey Olivier Doleuze in fourth and California Memory's fifth was 'much improved' according to rider Matt Chadwick.