Popular Italian jockey Umberto Rispoli will be out to break an unwanted run of outs at Happy Valley on Wednesday night when he arrives in winning form.
Fresh off a double at Sha Tin on Sunday, Rispoli is keen to keep the ball rolling but has history against him after riding just one winner at the Valley in the space of more than 200 days.
The Italian’s last winner at the tight city track came in July but he had not won there since March before that.
Rispoli can lay claim to being one of the more unlucky jockeys to date this season, riding more placings (22) than anyone but championship leaders Zac Purton and Karis Teetan while having significantly less rides than the pair.
He will partner up with trainer Peter Ho Leung again to ride Let’s Take It Easy in the Class Three Tai Lam Chung Handicap (1,650m) after a last-start third on the gelding where they ran into promising John Size galloper Red Warrior.
Perhaps his most intriguing runner of the night is the Caspar Fownes-trained Cheerfuljet, who looked set to break through for a victory last start but disappointed when he ran 10th.
He will line up in the night’s only Class Two – the High Island Handicap (1,200m) – against consistent horses such as Saul’s Special, Gunnison, Wishful Thinker and Jade Theatre.
“Cheerfuljet was a little bit disappointing last time but Caspar’s backed him up and the field looks the same,” Rispoli said.
Many expected the five-year-old to break through last start after two placings around Happy Valley to start the season.
Fownes managed to move the horse through the ratings quickly last season, winning four races in the space of eight races and improving from Class Four to Class Two in the process.
“I think the horse just had a bad day like all people and horses sometimes can have,” Rispoli said of the last start fade-out.
He's the real Ting! Rookie trainer Jimmy Ting has now saddled 16 winners from his first 52 runners in Hong Kong after Smiling Pride lands R4 at Sha Tin. That man @umbyrispoli is all smiles with a double of his own on the day. #HKracing pic.twitter.com/7og5iOFsoo— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) November 4, 2018
The 30-year-old will also partner up with the Ricky Yiu Poon-fai-trained Megatron, who was able to significantly improve last start.
The six-year-old gelding has had somewhat of a merry-go-round of jockeys of late, but it was Rispoli who was able to get the most out of him this season.
He will race in the Class Four Shek Pik Handicap (1,650m) against the likes of Sparkling Sword and Lucky Shiny Day, who looks ready to break his maiden status after eight starts.
With at least 10 jockeys stuck in a log jam of single figure winners this season, Rispoli knows how important it is to strike while he is hot to break clear of the pack.
The arrival of Silvestre de Sousa and Alexis Badel last week has further increased the competition among the jockeys while Joao Moreira’s imminent return threatens to take a number of rides off those battling it out in the middle of the pack.
“When you have winners – it’s not that you lose your confidence, because you always have to believe in what you do – but when you have some winners you feel so much better, especially in a place like Hong Kong,” Rispoli said.
Rispoli rode 31 winners last season, which saw him finish in eighth position in the standings.