By Emily Shields
The first day of the 2020 Breeders’ Cup World Championships also marks the first time that jockey Umberto Rispoli will ride a Breeders’ Cup starter. The 32-year-old jockey, who was an Italian champion and rode in Hong Kong before moving permanently to the United States this year, has three mounts in the Keeneland races this weekend.
On Friday, Rispoli will ride #3 Abarta (12-1) in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1). The son of Into Mischief is out of the graded stakes placed Smart Strike mare Dame Marie. He broke his maiden in his Ellis Park debut in August, scoring by a nose, before running second in the Grade 2 Bourbon Stakes over this course on October 4. Rispoli was up for the first time that day, guiding Abarta to outrun his 17-1 odds.
“That was my first time sitting on him,” Rispoli said. “He improved a lot coming out of Ellis Park. But any time you come out of a maiden to run in a grade 2 and finish second, that’s a big improvement.”
Rispoli feels Abarta has improved even more since then. “He’s shown more from his last start a month ago to now go into the Breeders’ Cup. There are so many good horses in the race, but when you ride for Brad Cox, you feel good about it.”
Trainer Brad Cox has been a sensation in the sport in the last few years, not unlike Rispoli himself. This past Del Mar summer meeting, Rispoli battled with fellow rider Flavien Prat for the riding title, ultimately losing 50 to 49 on the final day. “This is my first year in America, and you can’t count the two months we weren’t riding because of the pandemic,” Rispoli said.
The prospect of riding in his first Breeders’ Cup race is “exciting,” but Rispoli doesn’t think he will be nervous. “I don’t think so,” he admitted. “I give myself a chance in the race, as there is no big favorite. When it’s a two-year-old race, you never really know which horse is going to be dangerous. The horses from Europe have tough chances, but they will face different ground this time. It’s very open.”
The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf goes as the seventh of a 10-race program. Stay tuned in to TVG for continued coverage of the 2020 Breeders’ Cup.
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