By Ray Hickson
Happy Clapper can’t seem to get the better of Winx but he has a prime chance to match her if he claims the Group 1 $3m The Star Doncaster Mile (1600m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
The popular seven-year-old, trained by Pat Webster, would become just the eighth horse in over 150 years to win the two feature handicap miles at Randwick, the Epsom and Doncaster, in the same season.
Two years ago Winx was the seventh.
After seconds in the past two editions of the Doncaster, Happy Clapper’s jockey Blake Shinn believes the gelding is the horse to beat in 2018.
“You could arguably say he’s in the best form of his career,’’ Shinn said.
“I know it is hard to believe that when he is seven-years old but he won a Group 1 first-up and tested Winx in the George Ryder.
“I’ve been very happy with his progress this preparation and he’s drawn a great barrier. Hopefully this will be his chance to get a victory in the Doncaster.’’
Happy Clapper ran a respectable 33.83 last 600m in running second to Winx in the Ryder two weeks ago, Punters Intel showing his last 200m of 11.40 was comparable with third placed Kementari.
Like Happy Clapper, Shinn is yet to etch his name onto the Doncaster honour roll and he sees the race as one of the iconic races of the turf so is keen to add it to his 17 Group 1s to date.
“The Doncaster is steeped in tradition in Australian racing. It’s a very special race,’’ he said.
“Horses like Sunline, Super Impose, I can remember watching champions like them and champion jockeys win the race.
“It’s a significant race and winning a Doncaster, not only for Pat but myself, it would be up there in the big ones on my list.’’
Usually when it comes to feature handicap races there’s a lot of focus on the weights and with 57kg Happy Clapper, second favourite at $5 with TAB, has to beat a bit of history if he is to win.
The last male horse to carry 57kg or more to win a Doncaster was Secret Savings in 1997 though champion mares Sunline (58kg) and More Joyous (57.5kg) have carried more to victory.
Shinn, however, says he’s very happy with Happy Clapper’s impost, considering he carried 57kg to win the Epsom and has won a second Group 1.
“I think he has a winning weight,’’ he said.
“You’ve obviously got Kementari (on 51kg), and D’Argento down on 50kg, but in terms of weights and facts and figures I think he pretty much has the rest covered.
“And I couldn’t see it being a slowly run Doncaster. It’s a big field, a high-pressure race and there are horses with light weights.’’
Happy Clapper running second to Winx in the George Ryder Stakes on March 24
Among Shinn’s other rides on Championships Day 1 is a promising youngster called Lean Mean Machine in the Group 3 $200,000 Widden Kindergarten Stakes (1100m).
The Chris Waller-trained colt was a strong winner on debut at Warwick Farm, easily running the fastest last 600m of his race in 34.13.
“This horse is very laid back and mature for his age, very strong for his age, and I think he could develop into a serious horse,’’ Shinn said.
“It is a bit of a jump, horses like Enbihaar and Legend Of Condor have form in Group races, but you’re going to see where he measures up.
“I think he will be very competitive from what I felt in his debut win.’’
Lean Mean Machine is a $6.50 chance in the Kindergarten, Enbihaar holds favouritism at $2.60.