Umberto Rispoli heads into Wednesday’s (11 September) eight-race card at Happy Valley primed for the mount aboard Right Choice (118lb) in the Class 2 Big Wave Bay Handicap (1650m).
Happy Valley’s first meeting of the season marks the start of the DBS x Manulife Million Challenge, which runs until 26 February. The competition is for horses racing in Class 3 and above, with points awarded for first, second, third and fourth place finishes.
A first-up win for Right Choice would bag 15 points in the HK$1 million contest.
“He needed a break because he had a tough season, jumping from Class 4 to the top of Class 2 – he definitely needed a rest,” Rispoli said of the Frankie Lor-trainer gelding, who won five from eight in his debut campaign.
Right Choice was one of Hong Kong’s most improved gallopers last season – rising from a rating of 52 in Class 4 to a Class 2 figure of 89.
“This is his first time at the Valley, he just kept improving last year and at the end of the season it was a little bit tough because he reached a high rating in Class 2 but he was still competitive,” the Italian said.
The Mastercraftsman gelding mopped up four wins in succession as he bagged five from his first six starts and is fresh after well-deserved a four-month rest.
“His trial was ok, the track was very sloppy and he didn’t really like it. He’s a horse who prefers the grass that’s for sure.”
The gelding, a dirt track winner on debut but raced exclusively on turf since, is untested beyond 1600m. Rispoli suspects that stepping out over further would be beneficial.
“He’s been giving me the impression that he can be as well over 1800 metres to 2000 metres this season – he can go further, but the 1650 first-up is no problem,” he said.
Up against Right Choice are Doctor Geoff (133lb), Enrichment (118lb) and Harmony Hero (113lb), as well as the Lor-trained Mission Tycoon (131lb) who steps out for the first time this season following a Hong Kong Classic Series campaign that yielded a big win in the Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m).
“I’m very happy with his barrier, he feels like he’ll do a furlong or so further, he feels really well. Everything about him is in a good place,” said Wednesday night’s pilot Aldo Domeyer.
Mission Tycoon is aiming to build on his Four-Year-Old Classic Series campaign and Domeyer is upbeat about the gelding’s continued progression.
“He’s a solid boy, he’s sound, he’s got gate speed and he does everything that a Hong Kong horse should do – he’s a competitive athlete,” he said.
“I was pleased with his trial, he did everything I needed him to do. He’s obviously in good hands with Frankie and there are a lot of positives to look at.”