One of the feel-good stories of the season has been Umberto Rispoli’s courageous comeback from injury and the feisty Italian can continue his recent run of form at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Rispoli injured his knee and ankle in a shocking fall at Happy Valley in November in which he bounced off the turf in spectacular fashion.
The 28-year-old set his mind to rehabilitation and returning as soon as possible, taking just 74 days to get back in the saddle.
It took a lot longer to notch a winner though, with his run of outs extending to 78 rides and through to March, a sequence that included five seconds, before a breakthrough on Right Call.
Right Call’s win not only sparked a turnaround, Rispoli now has 13 winners including seven from the last four meetings, but was also the start of what has been a productive combination with premier trainer John Size.
Rispoli has ridden four winners from nine rides for the Australian and rides two solid each-way chances, Arm Runda and Sergeant Titanium, for the stable.
Many would feel that Arm Runda has probably already overachieved with four wins this campaign but a low draw might give the four-year-old a sneaky place chance in the Class Three Members Cup (1,200m).
“He didn’t have much luck last time, it was tough to cross from barrier 11, he ended up in a tricky spot wide on the turn but he still ran a tough race to run fifth,” Rispoli said.
Sergeant Titanium won its way high in the ratings with four wins last term and struggled in Class Two for the most part this term.
The six-year-old’s rating has now dropped to 84 and Size opted for an unconventional approach after an unplaced run over 1,800m in January. Size sent the gelding to the trials six times since then, and now tries 1,600m in the Class Two Moon Koon Handicap.
Rispoli got a close look at Sergeant Titanium during the horse’s last trial as he sat behind the horse on rival Balay Balay in a 1,700m jump-out at Happy Valley.
“Obviously I watched him trial against me the other day and he looks in really good shape,” Rispoli said of the trial in which Joao Moreira rode Sergeant Titanium in an improved workout.
“He has had some rest, and he probably deserved that. Joao has taken the ride on Seasons Bloom so that tells you that he is the horse to beat, but I have a decent draw with barrier six and other than the top two it doesn’t look that strong for a Class Two.”
Rispoli retains the ride on Benno Yung Tin-pang’s Momentum Lucky, another drawn a good gate, in the Class Two Racing Club Handicap (1,200m), a contest in which he hopes a hot speed benefits his horse.
With Dylan Mo Hin-tung looking to lead on Shamal from gate 11 and fellow apprentice Matthew Poon Ming-fai probably wanting to get into a handy spot as well on Sea Jade, there could be fireworks early.
Little Giant will start strong favourite after an easy first-up win but Rispoli said the dangers didn’t stop there.
“Flying Tourbillion ran a cheeky race last time, I think he could be challenging as well,” he said.