Italian jockey Umberto Rispoli will be armed with advice from his former boss when he hops aboard first-starter Glorious Spectrum on Sunday.
The now Frankie Lor Fu-chuen-trained import won four from six starts in Italy under Rispoli’s old master Alduino Botti and was touted as one of the best up-and-coming milers in the country before being sold to Hong Kong interests.
Now under Lor’s care, Glorious Spectrum has trialled three times, but will be set a much tougher task in the Class Two Nathan Handicap (1,200m) on the Sha Tin all-weather track.
While rival jockey Zac Purton rode the horse in all three trials, Rispoli took advantage of Glorious Spectrum’s light first-up weight to snare the ride on the promising import.
“I was checking the entries and I thought the 118 pounds could be a bit tight for Zac and I saw Gunnison and Pick Number One in the race and I thought he would ride one of those so I rung Frankie,” he said.
“I said ‘Frankie can I ride him, he’s 118 and I know the horse really well from his Italian form because my old boss used to train him’.”
It was a summer holiday to Europe that sparked Rispoli’s interest in Glorious Spectrum (formally called Met Spectrum) after catching up with Botti.
The horse was fresh off an eye-catching second placing in the Group Three Premio Parioli at Milan before he found out it had been sold to Hong Kong.
“When I went to Italy in the summer time, he said he had sold this horse to Hong Kong, he said ‘Umby try to get on him’ because he was a really nice horse and potentially one of the best milers in Italy,” he said.
“That’s why I was trying to get on him when he first arrived in Hong Kong but the owners probably wanted Zac to trial the horse.
“He ran second in the Guineas and every race that he ran he was very honest and [Botti] was thinking he was a very good horse.”
Lor said despite the short 1,200m trip, he expects his horse to be in the finish after showing enough speed in his trials to date.
He was happy to roll the dice on an all-weather track debut after a strong performance in his single trial on the surface earlier this month, in between his two turf hit-outs.
“The horse has really impressed me during his time here, his work each morning has been quite strong as well,” Lor said.
“After his trial on the dirt, I was happy to start him on it this week.”
A win on Sunday would mark the start of a big week for the owners as they also have Glorious Forever, who will start in next week’s Group One Longines Hong Kong Cup (2,000m).
Both Rispoli and Lor agreed that while he was a winning chance this week, they thought the horse would turn in even stronger performances in the future over more ground, mirroring his form in Italy.
“Of course I think he’s going to be a miler because if you check his form in Italy, that’s where he wins,” Rispoli said.
Lor will also saddle up another former European galloper Vincy for his debut on Sunday after a frustrating 13 months in Hong Kong.
The two-time Irish winner arrived in Lor’s stables in October last year but is yet to compete on race day after being struck down by a number of foot and leg issues.
Lor said he opted for a patient approach with the horse, who will have his first start in the Class Three Salisbury Handicap (1,400m) with Grant van Niekerk to ride.
He impressed recently in a barrier trial where he ran on strongly under a hold to make ground against experienced gallopers.