Giant Turtle ‘all heart’ and set for more success, says Rispoli

Giant Turtle (red cap) gets the better of Ensuring (outside) at Sha Tin earlier this season. Source: HKJC

Jockey Umberto Rispoli hopes that his association with honest galloper Giant Turtle can continue to reap rewards when he partners the stayer in the Class 3 Busan Handicap (2200m) at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (25 April).

The Tony Millard-trained Giant Turtle has won two of his six starts this season, both over staying trips at Sha Tin and both times with Rispoli in the saddle.

“He’s a really nice little horse,” Rispoli said at Sha Tin on Tuesday morning (24 April). “He’s all heart, he’s not very big but he’s got a big heart. He’s a tough horse and so far he’s doing very well. I’m proud of him.”

Giant Turtle has not raced since finishing second to the John Moore-trained Grand Chancellor at Sha Tin on Derby day (Sunday, 18 March).

“Giant Turtle continues to progress well,” said the Italian rider.

“At his last run, one horse put me under plenty of pressure throughout, probably for 800 metres, and then my horse probably paid the price a little bit at the end. But it took a nice performance from Grand Chancellor to beat me, too. I think the horse is still in the same condition now.

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“Back to Happy Valley, where he is already a two-time winner, should suit him – I know it was over 1650m, but he’s proven at Sha Tin that the 2200m is no problem.”

Giant Turtle, who jumps from gate three in Wednesday night’s contest, has only stepped beyond 2000m twice, and only once in Hong Kong. He finished 12th to Mongolian Khan in the Group 1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) in March, 2015, while he was able to win over 2200m at Sha Tin in January.

That day, he beat the Frankie Lor-trained Ensuring by three-quarters of a length. Ensuring reopposes once more, but has a 7lb weight swing on Giant Turtle this time around. However, the seven-year-old has not raced since finishing last in that same Grand Chancellor race last month.

Rispoli’s compatriot Alberto Sanna has his first raceday ride on Ensuring, having partnered the New Approach gelding in a 1700m trial at Happy Valley on 14 April.

“The trainer said he was a big horse with a big action so in the trial he asked me to place him forward, but to allow him to find his rhythm and have him in a comfortable position,” Sanna said. “The trial wasn’t that bad, I didn’t give him any hard pressure, I just let him do his own thing, tried to make him feel happy and well.
“I think he can run his usual honest, genuine race, I think he can bounce back.”

Ensuring is approaching three years since his last victory, a Class 2 success in July, 2015. Later that year, he contested the Group 1 Hong Kong Vase (2400m), finishing ninth to Highland Reel, but his rating has been on a downward spiral since.

“He’s always had talent and I think he can win a race soon on his rating,” Sanna said. “It does appear a very tough race, though. Giant Turtle looks hard to beat, he’s just kept stepping up this season.”

Also set to step out in the 2200m contest are dual Argentinean Group 1 winner Goldfield, Group 2 Derby Italiano victor Super Chic, Group 3 winner Zilong and the in-form Har Har Heart.

The Busan Handicap is the third of eight races at Happy Valley and is scheduled for 8.15pm, with the opener, the Class 5 Daejeon Handicap (1650m), set to begin proceedings at 7.15pm.

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