Horse Racing
Italian Patriot Hero, Rispoli’s dark horse for the Hong Kong Classic Mile

By David Morgan
18/01/2018 15:35

Patriot Hero is seeking success in the Hong Kong Classic Mile.
Patriot Hero is seeking success in the Hong Kong Classic Mile.

Italian form carried Beauty Only to a Hong Kong Classic Mile triumph in 2015 and on Sunday (21 January) Umberto Rispoli and Patriot Hero will try to seal another famous victory for ‘lo Stivale’ in the HK$10 million feature.

Patriot Hero is nowadays under the watch of South African handler David Ferraris at Sha Tin’s Olympic Stables but started his career in Italy, racing four times pre-import. After notching two wins at 1500m and a mile, the chestnut placed second in last season’s G3 Premio Parioli (1600m) and fifth in the G2 Derby Italiano (2200m).

Ferraris will pit the gelding against the best of his peers off the back of only one Hong Kong start, a debut 10th in a Class 2 handicap over 1400m at Sha Tin on 1 January. But that finishing position belied a positive effort: the son of Pivotal found things happening a little too quickly in the early stages, settled back at the tail under Rispoli and then closed to finish on the heels of another Classic Mile candidate, seventh-placed Ruthven.

“Patriot Hero was just beaten about four lengths and he’s a really lovely horse. It might come a bit too soon for him but you’ve got to try – they’re all level weights – and see how good he is. He galloped very well on Tuesday on the grass and I certainly don’t think he’ll disgrace himself,” Ferraris said.

Patriot Hero finishes four and a half lengths 10th on his Hong Kong debut.

Rispoli, Italy’s champion jockey in 2009 and 2010 and now a familiar fixture in Hong Kong, was aboard the Irish-bred for that gallop. Patriot Hero went 1200m in a time of 1m 20.8s (30.6s, 27.7s, 22.5s).

“It was nice work,” he said. “It’s going to be a tough race, it’s very competitive but he’s a nice horse – a progressive horse.”

Patriot Hero’s pedigree has plenty of speed, being a three parts sister to Noble Hachy, a multiple stakes-winning sprinter in Italy. The BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) in March, though, appears to be on the agenda.

“He has speed in his pedigree but he was bought with being a stayer in mind,” Ferraris said. “I think they bought him as a Derby prospect because his runs in Italy don’t suggest he was a sprinter. The pedigree is more like a miler, so we’ll just see how he runs in this race and take it from there”

Patriot Hero runs second in last season’s G3 Premio Parioli in Rome, Italy.

Rispoli kept an eye on Patriot Hero’s Italian career and believes the 2000-metre Hong Kong Derby might be within his range.

“He can go a mile, for sure – he’s a Pivotal and in Italy he ran on the speed; he had good gate speed; he went forward; he could go in front. He’s an easy horse to ride, though; you can sit him anywhere, he doesn’t pull, he’s relaxed and so he should be fine at a mile and he might even get 2000 metres.”

But Patriot Hero must first prove his mettle in the crucible of Sunday’s initial leg of the three-race Four-Year-Old Classic Series.

“It’s probably a little bit early to compare him with the big boys because they’re higher in the ratings and have more experience of Hong Kong racing,” Rispoli said, “but so far he’s doing well and the horse’s development is very good. He’s improving from his last start, for sure.”


Italian import Beauty Only won the Classic Mile three years ago.
Italian import Beauty Only won the Classic Mile three years ago.

The Tony Cruz-trained Beauty Only – a G3 winner in Italy as a juvenile – went on to earn G1 honours in the Hong Kong Mile and took Hong Kong’s Champion Miler title last year, and Ferraris is hoping that Sunday’s race will help get a gauge on whether or not this Italian acquisition has what it takes to follow a similar path.

“If this race is any indication to what he might be running in in the future, we have to start here,” the trainer said.