By Andrew Hawkins
Jockey Umberto Rispoli will be hoping he can continue his magic touch with Po Ching Treasure at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (21 January) as the Caspar Fownes-trained galloper seeks to build on a momentous last-start victory in the Class 4 Grass Island Handicap (1800m).
Po Ching Treasure arrived from Australia as a Group 2 placegetter in Melbourne, but before last start, he was winless in Hong Kong from 38 attempts. However, everything fell into place for the chestnut last time out over the Sha Tin mile as he got the bob in a nose victory over Size-trained Infinity Endeavour, ridden by Joao Moreira.
“I was quite lucky, I will say that,” Rispoli said at Sha Tin on Tuesday morning (20 June). “I got a nice spot in the box seat on the rail, I came through between Joao’s horse and the rail and that’s probably allowed me to win the race. I thought he’d win by further though, he raced through like he was going to win by a length, but he was just waiting for the other horse to come at him again.”
Rispoli hopes that the horse has taken some confidence from his last-start win, but he believes that gate 10 will make his task difficult regardless.
“It’s very hard to say, with a horse like that, whether he will grow in confidence now, especially when he spent so long trying to win his first race,” he said. “With the draw he has, it will be a hard job. However the horse is in good shape, the ground is going to be soft which should help him a lot, so let’s see.”
Rispoli, meanwhile, was full of confidence on Tuesday morning that he could be a part of John Size’s potentially historic night at Happy Valley as the eight-time Champion Trainer strives to set a new record for most winners by a handler in a season. However, his sole mount for Size, Diego Kosta, was withdrawn from the Class 3 Lantau Island Handicap (1200m) on Tuesday morning, leaving the Italian ace with four rides on Wednesday night.
Diego Kosta’s scratching leaves Size, who sits on 90 wins this season, with five runners at Happy Valley as he aims to better Tony Cruz’s mark of 91, set in 2004/05.
One of his major chances comes up in the nightcap, the Class 3 Cheung Chau Handicap (1650m), with Gamechangers stepping out under jockey Sam Clipperton.
The Irish import is having just his second start in Hong Kong, having won two races at Dundalk and Killarney from six starts for now-retired trainer David Wachman when known as Aspen Mountain. He finished fifth at his first run for Size over the Sha Tin 1400m with Clipperton in the plate.
“It was a good run, he was up in the box seat and stuck on quite gamely in a competitive race,” Clipperton said. “He’d had a few trials leading into that run and he raced accordingly. I expect him to take some natural improvement. He has ability, he has a nice temperament for here in Hong Kong and I expect him to be competitive on Wednesday night, although draw nine does make things a little bit tricky.”
Size has four other representatives at Happy Valley as he aims to surpass Cruz’s mark – Nashashuk in the Class 4 Ninepin Group Handicap (1200m) and Wayfoong Vinnie in the Class 3 Manawatu Racing Club Challenge Trophy Handicap (1200m), both to be ridden by Joao Moreira, as well as King Bountiful in the Class 4 Grass Island Handicap (1800m) and Raging Bull in the Class 4 Crooked Island Handicap (1650m), who will be partnered by Olivier Doleuze.
Racing kicks off at Happy Valley on Wednesday night with the Class 5 Po Toi Handicap (1000m) scheduled to jump at 7.15pm.
Po Ching Treasure (inside) gets the better of Infinity Endeavour to open his Hong Kong account last start.