Italian jockey Umberto Rispoli is back for a long mid-season stint and although well aware of the tough task ahead, the always feisty Italian vows he isn’t here to merely make up numbers.
Rispoli, a veteran of four winter contracts in Hong Kong, only rode at four meetings last season but starts a five-month tenure with three rides at Wednesday night’s all-dirt Sha Tin meeting.
The 28-year-old will ride through to BMW Hong Kong Derby day on March 19 and is not only keen to build on his solid record of 46 wins so far, but bank another big race result as well.
“It’s always a big challenge when you come here,” he said. “I know it is not easy but I want to add to those winners.”
Rispoli is part of the annual mid-season influx of riders from the northern hemisphere, which started with Silvestre de Sousa’s arrival last weekend while Irish young gun Oisin Murphy is set to start on November 12 at Sha Tin.
Just like de Sousa, Rispoli has arrived earlier than he has previously to chase a Group One win, something he already achieved on the final day of his first stint aboard Rulership in the 2012 Audemars Piguet QEII Cup.
“You have to fight hard to find good rides and get a chance to ride in big races,” he said. “But that is what I am hopeful of doing. I have always done well in the big races in Hong Kong and being here longer gives me more opportunities.”
Rispoli will aim to maintain a minimum weight of 118 pounds during the remainder of his stay, but will ride at 119 pounds on Wednesday night and nominated a horse that will carry that weight as his best chance.
“Imperial Gallantry for Paul O’Sullivan has a good chance in Class Three I think,” with the jockey needing to not only overcome barrier 13 from the awkward 1,650m starting point, but control a horse that has been a handful throughout his career.
O’Sullivan said that even though Imperial Gallantry had raced more genuinely of late, with a win and a second so far this season, the trainer still wasn’t convinced his five-year-old was completely reformed.
“He seems to be a much more mature horse this time in, but I don’t trust him yet,” O’Sullivan said. “He has run pretty straight at his last two and stopped pulling some of the tricks he used to play, where he would duck in behind horses in the straight. But I would like to see him do it three or four more times before we rely on him.”