Similar but joyously different was Umberto Rispoli’s take on the Happy Valley meeting on Wednesday night as the Italian “celebrated” the anniversary of his spectacular fall with a surprise winning double.
Rispoli showed lightning reflexes to win the start and lead throughout in the trophy race on well-anticipated favourite Fantastic Eight for Ricky Yiu Poon-fai but the surprise part came in the following race with a pickup mount on Bank On Red for John Size.
Again, Rispoli won the jump and had Bank On Red in the vanguard immediately before giving the lead away to 130-1 shot Winning Supreme.
Even an early dash to the front by Go Beauty Go couldn’t put Rispoli off his game as he went on to win the same race in which he fell from Mr Pele last year at the top of the straight and bounced metres into the air. The knee ligament injury he suffered kept him out of action for two-and-a-half months.
This time a fall worked in his favour, with Bank On Red originally to be ridden by Joao Moreira but Rispoli was named the standby jockey after Moreira’s fall at Melbourne Cup day on Tuesday.
“I was thinking about it yesterday, how it was one year to the day since the fall and had a feeling something might happen. When I had the fall, I didn’t have many rides at the meeting and I picked up Mr Pele at declaration time,” Rispoli said.
“Things went in the same kind of order this time just with a better result. We didn’t know if Joao would ride or not, so I didn’t have a ride in the race until this morning.”
With leaders having an advantage throughout the card, Fantastic Eight had been ideally suited as he is usually in front and the Italian made sure when he slipped the gates like greased lighting to cross over from barrier 11.
“It definitely helped tonight to lead and, you know, riding in Hong Kong makes you sharper at the start,” he said.
Yiu said he would keep Fantastic Eight at Happy Valley in an effort to win the Million Challenge now that the gelding had proved he liked the place.
“He has that action where he swings his leg a little bit and it’s funny but those horses always seem to like the Valley,” Yiu said. “Many years ago, John Moore had one called Pinky Long Legs who had the same thing with his action but much worse than this horse. He won quite a few mile races around here.”
Horses for courses, however, don’t come any better than the nine-year-old Ocean Roar (Dylan Mo Hin-tung) and the Almond Lee-trained gelding won his 10th race over the Valley 1,000m, also leading throughout from a wide gate.
Mo got him out of the gates brilliantly to take up his habitual role in front – he has never passed a horse to win a race in his 65 starts – and the apprentice buttered up with a second winner two races later on Curling Luxury and took the Jockey Challenge as well.
The final winner, Born In China (Douglas Whyte) was something of a black sheep victor considering the pattern which had been set as he is normally a back-marker.
But Whyte bounced him out into third on the fence and he always looked hard to beat.
“The way the track is, we wanted to be closer than usual,” said trainer Francis Lui Kin-wai. “But I was thinking maybe midfield on the rail – I certainly didn’t imagine he would be that close.”