By David Morgan
Fresh from a four-timer at Sha Tin on Sunday, Umberto Rispoli swooped to claim the night’s trophy race at Happy Valley tonight (Wednesday, 7 June), the Class 3 Cricket Club Valley Stakes Handicap (1800m), atop 34/1 longshot Rickfield (129lb).
It was the Italian’s 11th success of the season and his first this term for Tony Millard from five rides for the South African handler.
“It’s nice to have my first winner for Tony Millard this season; I haven’t ridden a lot for him since I came back,” Rispoli said, referring to the leg break that sidelined him from November until late January.
Rickfield, a Dansili gelding out of the Aga Khan’s G2-winner Ashalanda – fourth in the G1 Hong Kong Cup (2000m) in 2009 – was landing his second Hong Kong win. The 75-rated five-year-old, a Listed winner at Chantilly pre-import, was successful at the course and distance off a mark of 68 back in February.
“They went really fast, the pace was crazy and it suited my horse perfectly,” Rispoli said after driving the grey to a length and a quarter verdict over the John Size-trained Easy Hedge (115lb), in a fast time of 1m 48.50s.
“He’s a horse that likes to sit behind them and relax,” he continued. “He has such a nice turn-of-foot and when I saw that the pace was like that I was just happy to sit there, balance him well, give him a nice breather on the middle of the corner, just wait for the straight line and then let him go and win the race.”
Teetan’s late double
The night’s Class 2 standout, the concluding Wong Nai Chung Gap Handicap (1200m) went the way of the Francis Lui-trained Convincible. That sealed a late double for Karis Teetan who also took the penultimate contest, section two of the Violet Hill Handicap (1200m), aboard the Ricky Yiu-trained Red Kylin, returned at 7.7.
“Luckily the last two races went my way,” Teetan said. “Red Kylin ran a good race down the straight at Sha Tin last time, he hasn’t had many runs this season and he was flying.
“Convincible has been running very well at Sha Tin, and he’s got lots of ability, but I think at this track he’s finding it easier,” he said of the 3.6 favourite. “He’ll now go into the break with confidence and I think he’ll come back stronger next season.”
As Convincible passed the post a neck ahead of the fast-finishing Archippus, close behind, Chad Schofield was pitched to the ground from Molly’s Jade Star. The track’s medical team was immediately on hand to treat the jockey, who fell right on the winning line, and he was taken to hospital complaining of neck pain.
Callan’s early brace
Neil Callan was sharp out of the traps tonight. The Irishman hit an early Class 5 double in the opening two contests to take his season’s tally to 43, four shy of his previous best of 47, which he achieved in his first full Hong Kong campaign in 2014/15.
The Dennis Yip-trained Gentry was first on the board in the Mount Cameron Handicap (1650m). Top-weight of 133lb couldn’t anchor the five-year-old who was down to the lowest grade for the first time for his maiden win at start 12. Callan’s mount, a 5.6 chance, tracked a hot pace off the home turn and swooped for a two-length score. The time was a sharp 1m 40.11s.
“I thought Gentry would be too good for them in the first,” Callan said. “From his tricky gate (9) he got a lovely spot and the pace was strong. He just stretched out and won quite comfortably.”
There were similarities in race two, the Class 5 Mount Gough Handicap (1200m), as 18/1 chance Funny Buddies (132lb) quickened from a handy spot turning in and surged to a length and a half success in 1m 09.92s.
“With Funny Buddies it was the same thing from a good gate (5),” he said of the Paul O’Sullivan-trained galloper whose previous career win came over 1100m at Hawkesbury, New South Wales, in September, 2014.
“The speed was good and he showed good pace to get a nice position early,” he continued. “I kept it simple and stayed to the outside. I had to give him a few to wake him up because he was thinking a bit when he was going there to hit the front but once I got him to the front I gave him a couple and he went away and won easily.”
Champion Jockey Joao Moreira was also in double form as he continued his quest for a hoped-for record tally. The Brazilian requires 13 more wins from 10 remaining meetings to top the phenomenal benchmark of 168 he set last season.
Moreira partnered the Size-trained Raging Bull to win the Class 4 Shouson Hill Handicap (1650m) and was successful aboard Prince Harmony for Chris So in the first section of the Class 3 Violet Hill Handicap (1200m).
Apprentice Dylan Mo took his tally for the term to 17 when he drove the Danny Shum-trained Salsa Brothers to a first Hong Kong win at start 19 in the Class 4 Mount Nicholson Handicap (1200m).
Umberto Rispoli continued his good form aboard Rickfield in tonight��s Cricket Club Valley Stakes Handicap.
Karis Teetan and Convincible (11) hold the fast-closing Archippus (2), under Zac Purton, to win the last.
Gentry gives jockey Neil Callan the first leg of an early double.