Umberto Rispoli.

Umberto Rispoli missed Saturday’s Sha Tin card with a back injury. That was his first absence this term and he made up for it with his first success since 5 May in race two at Sha Tin on Wednesday night, section one of the Class 4 Tong Fuk Handicap (1650m), on former New Zealand based galloper Lasting Friendship.

The Peter Ho-trained galloper had not hit the mark in 11 Hong Kong starts, not since a 1200m maiden win at New Plymouth for Lauren Brennan pre-import. The gelding held race favourite Touch Of Luck, who ran on for second under Zac Purton despite the inconvenience of his unloosening pacifiers bouncing around his head before flying off completely in the home straight.

“He’s a horse that I’ve been following for a long time and I was thinking he’d been unlucky a few times from a wide draw,” Rispoli said of the 29/1 shot. “The instruction had been to get cover in midfield but he jumped so good tonight, and Starlit Knight surprised me by not wanting to lead, so I took the decision to sit outside the leader. The pace was slow and my horse is one-paced, he won from the front in New Zealand so I wasn’t scared to be there. We got down to the 600 (metres) and I tried to wind him up a bit, to get him working and he kept on to the line.

“That gives me some oxygen to the end of the season!” -HKJC