Umberto Rispoli. Benoit Photo.

Del Mar Diaries: Rispoli Taking At the Spa With a Grain of Salt in the Mornings

Each week, a series of jockeys at Del Mar will share their thoughts in interviews with members of the TVG team on the weekend’s card and reflect on some of their favorite racing memories.

By Umberto Rispoli (as told to Joaquin Jaime)

In the Grade 1 John C. Mabee Stakes on Saturday, I’m on Dogtag for Richard Mandella. She’s a good breaker normally but that day (second in the Grade 2 Yellow Ribbon) – they actually have this on my camera on my helmet – you can see she stumbled out of the gate. And the last couple of times she had a tendency to be a little bit of keen, so that’s the reason why (we took back) that day. Once you come down to that chute, you can’t chase too much horse. You can put yourself in trouble and obviously it can be dangerous for the others. So, I decided to stay at the back end which wasn’t it wasn’t bad decision, I was just behind the winner. But hopefully this time, fingers crossed I can make her a stakes winner.

In the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby, I’m on Sword Zero (IRE), who was disqualified last time in the Grade 3 La Jolla Handicap. I think it was a tough call for the stewards, for us. Coming at the top of the stretch, he’s the kind of horse where I rode before at Del Mar and he was a horse who always learned in. So that’s why I was ready after we passed the last horse to keep him away from the left side because he always shifted to the rail. But this time, he angles to the outside. I don’t think I deserved the takedown, but you know that’s the opinion of the stewards. I think the horses should have maintained the result and be a Grade 3-winner but you know that’s how our business goes.

I think he’s more mature now. I think I had to gain some ground last time on the backstretch and they go all the way through because obviously the horse to beat was up front. This time is going to be a big field, I think there is going to be some pace there so wherever I’m going to land with him, I’m going to be happy. You know it’s a less tactical when there are more horses around, you just you want to find the best trip ever for your horse and ride from there. I think the horse has decent chance to win the race.

In the Grade 1 TVG Del Mar Debutant, I’m on At the Spa. She’s not the best worker ever. I had a chance to speak with (jockey) Tyler Baze – which was a very kind of him to give me some tips on her – and the first thing he told me was don’t be surprised if you work her in 1:02, 1:03, 1:04 in the morning. By herself, she won’t go. That’s the kind of horse where on raceday, they switch. And you know it be it’ll be interesting to see the draw, interesting to see the field. I mean she’s so far she’s doing great. Obviously, this is a huge step to go into the race like this, but you know she’s in the good condition. I know she’s pretty fast from the gate. But the main thing Tyler told me was don’t be surprised if you go to slow in the morning because she’s a bit lazy.

In the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity, I’m on American Xperiment. I don’t know much about the horse. I only watched his first start at Saratoga which I think was really impressive. If (trainer) Steve (Asmussen) is coming here, he knows then the horse has some potential obviously. It’s a Grade 1 and there are going to be some top horses in the race but I’m very confident and happy.”