While well-liked jockey Umberto Rispoli was unable to sign off from his Hong Kong career with a winner at Sha Tin on Sunday, the Italian said he is leaving with his head held high.
The straight-talking 31-year-old was given a champagne shower by his riding colleagues after the last race on Sunday after it looked for a split-second he was going to win on the Paul O’Sullivan-trained Amazing Luck.
Rispoli himself admitted that he was daring to dream up the straight as the five-year-old began to make his move.
“I really enjoyed the whole day, in the last race, I was dreaming for about 300m there in the straight because I thought I was a chance to win it and I was, I knew Zac [Purton] was there on one of the favourites so I was trying hard, I did right until the line but it wasn’t to be,” he said.
“I didn’t finish in Hong Kong with a winner but I can say that I didn’t finish like a loser either.
“The best thing would have been to have a winning ride but the best part for me was after the last race, Zac and Joao [Moreira] prepared the champagne and sprayed it all around the jockeys’ room. There were no videos so only us know what happened, it was the highlight and a really nice gesture from the boys.”
Rispoli had done his best all week to keep his impeding departure from Hong Kong out of his thinking, but admitted it dawned on him come Sunday morning.
“This morning, I woke up and started to realise that it was my last day,” he said.
“I was heading out there and you see the crowd, I was starting to think about it all, I realised it was my last ride in Hong Kong.”
Rispoli will fly to Los Angeles on Monday to begin his new career based at Santa Anita where he hopes to find his big-race spark again after it had gone missing in Hong Kong.
A multiple Group One winner, Rispoli said a lack of opportunity in Hong Kong had begun to wear thin and was hopeful a new landscape might kick-star his career again.
“After midnight, it is a new challenge for me. It is a new chapter, new year and a new life for me, I would like to thank the Hong Kong Jockey Club for the opportunity to ride here,” he said.
“I am headed to America, I don’t really know what to expect but I am excited, I am going there full of power and ready for a new challenge.
“I just want to be focused, first thing I am going to do is get there, settle by myself, be quiet and meet a few people around.”
While it was his final day in the saddle in Hong Kong, Rispoli was forced to part with HK$15,000 after being fined by stewards for not riding out Tang Treasure in the first race of the day.
De Sousa off to Qatar
Jockey Silvestre de Sousa will miss Saturday’s Sha Tin race meeting to ride in Qatar.
The Brazilian is the retained rider for King Power Racing and has a commitment to partner Bangkok in the US$500,000 event.
It is the second Hong Kong meeting De Sousa has missed during his short-term stint, after having to ride in the Bahrain International Trophy last month.
The 38-year-old has five winners in Hong Kong this season and earned high praise from trainer John Moore after he lifted the unwilling Sprint Forward to victory in the Class Four Lukfook Jewellery Goldstyle Handicap (1,400m) at Sha Tin on Sunday.
“He [Sprint Forward] is limited but we drew the good gate today,” Moore said. “De Sousa is a great jockey for him because he can really get him going and that is what he needed today.”
Quadruple Double beats the odds
David Hall’s prayers to the Sha Tin barrier gods continue to be answered for his much-improved four-year-old Quadruple Double.
Now a three-time winner this season, he has drawn barrier one three times in a row at Sha Tin and won two of them, including Sunday’s Class Three Lukfook Jewellery PT Collection (1,200m).
The odds of drawing barrier one three times in a row are a hefty 2,744-1 so it is fair to say Hall has been thankful for the prolonged run of luck.
“He has been very fortunate to have had barrier one three times in a row so he is straight on the bunny each time,” he said.
His wins however have been no fluke, with jockey Matthew Poon Ming-fai rating him perfectly each time from the front and then holding off his rivals in the straight.
“He is such a professional horse, very well behaved in the gates and has terrific gate speed,” Hall said.
“Matthew has controlled the pace really well each time.”
Riding light takes its toll
Jockey Chad Schofield was again the victim of dehydration at Sha Tin on Sunday.
The young jockey was indisposed after race four after attempting to waste to ride Superich at 116 pounds in the Class Two Lukfook Jewellery Cup (1,400m).
He joined Regan Bayliss on the sidelines after he was withdrawn on Saturday afternoon thanks to a stomach complaint.
It marked a busy 24 hours for stewards who also whacked jockeys Matthew Chadwick and Alex Lai Hoi-wing with two-meeting suspensions due to careless riding.
Chadwick was also forced to shell out HK$25,000 for the offence.
Lui in the middle of an Elite Patch
Francis Lui Kin-wai continued his excellent recent form with another double at Sha Tin on Sunday.
The trainer sits in outright second on the championship table with 20 wins, just four behind Ricky Yiu Poon-fai.
Impressive last-start dirt winner Elite Patch (Vincent Ho Chak-yiu) was all the rage heading into the Lukfook Jewellery Love Forever Collection Handicap (1,200m), jumping at $1.45.
Despite a wide run, the four-year-old got the job done, holding off a late charge from Mega Heart to prevail.
“He’s just kept his form from the other day. Today, he draw 10 and was caught wide and he still finished off well. Now he’s consistent,” Lui said.
“It’s just taken some time for him to find his best. You have to do the right thing to him otherwise he doesn’t listen.”
Lui’s other winner came in the opening race with Valiant Dream (Blake Shinn), who bounced back from a disappointing effort in his previous start with the help of a gear change.
“Last time, he didn’t show his usual gate speed. The only thing we did was remove the tongue tie and that seemed to make the difference,” he said.