Umberto Rispoli heads east, is Flavien Prat next?
Umberto Rispoli is leaving the Southern California circuit where he has established himself as a top rider at both Santa Anita and Del Mar in favor of more opportunities on the New York circuit. Rispoli will be based at Belmont and Saratoga this coming summer after moving his tack to the NYRA circuit in April. His book will be handled by longtime New York agent Mike Sellitto who also books the mounts for Junior Alvarado and will continue to do so.
Rispoli has enjoyed success in some of the biggest races in Italy where he began riding in 2005. He has won Group and Graded races in Japan, France, Hong Kong, and here in the United States as well. He battled with Flavien Prat for leading riding honors at the 2020 Del Mar summer meet and it came down to the wire and the Grade 1 Runhappy Del Mar Futurity when both riders had 49 wins. Prat won the race and title aboard Dr. Schivel.
Speaking of Prat, we hear he may also leave the Southern California circuit for New York. We have not confirmed this, and Prat has been the go to leading rider on the Southern California circuit of late. The fields in California have been small, the racing week is short, and that is impacting the opportunities for all the riders there. Logistically it is tougher to ship in and out, and that goes for the riders as well. While it would be somewhat odd for a rider in Prat’s position to switch circuits, the lure of a major barn, bigger purses and overall more opportunities can be attractive for any rider.
Rispoli quickly established himself as a fan favorite when he arrived in California. His aggressive riding combined with his enthusiasm and engaging personality caught the attention of both trainers and the fans on social media where Rispoli has never shied away from interacting.
Umberto Rispoli put Red King square into the Breeders’ Cup with an aggressive early move we rarely see in US grass racing today. With all the talk we hear on the NYRA circuit about riders not showing early speed on the turf, Rispoli might shake things up.
Flavien Prat to move tack east
Shortly after we released this article jockey Flavien Prat announced he was leaving the Southern California circuit to ride the spring meet at Keeneland. After Keeneland Prat will ride at Belmont and Saratoga similar to Rispoli. Southern California will be losing two of their top riders to the NYRA circuit. Prat will continue to be represented by agent Brad Pegram.
Photo: Benoit Photography