By Ray Hickson
Pat Webster has never dodged Winx and isn’t going to start now but he’s hoping his own star Happy Clapper can emulate one of the champion’s feats in the autumn.
The seven-year-old has been back in work with Webster at Randwick for less than a week and the trainer revealed he’s targeting the $3m Doncaster Mile (1600m) second-up in a short preparation.
Happy Clapper is the reigning Epsom Handicap winner and would repeat what Winx achieved in 2015-16 if he can take both feature miles in the same season.
Webster said Happy Clapper put on 60kg in his break at GT Park, near Kulnura, and has returned in tip-top order.
“This is the best he's ever done,’’ he said.
“I put that down to being a bit more relaxed, he's been to this place, which is about 500m from our place, a few times and he's used to it now.
“It's like a home away from home.’’
Happy Clapper's breakthrough Group 1 win in the Epsom in September
Webster said Happy Clapper will have two barrier trials leading into a first-up run in either the Newcastle Newmarket (on March 9) or the George Ryder Stakes (on March 24).
The Doncaster would be his second start in the autumn and Webster said there isn’t a lot of room in his plans for any mishaps.
“Everything is really to the hour so we can't have a setback of any kind,’’ he said.
“It is a bit risky but that was the only way of giving him five weeks in the paddock.
“We took the punt on giving him an extra fortnight. It's only going to be a light autumn but if something happens it happens.’’
The brief, almost cameo, program keeps the $4m Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) on the radar.
Winx will almost certainly be there in the Ryder and if the champ’s passport is stamped to go overseas the Queen Elizabeth would be ripe for the picking for a horse like Happy Clapper despite some doubt at his 2000m credentials.
“He ran second in the Emirates which was a little unexpected after a hard prep and everyone saying he couldn't run 2000m,’’ Webster said.
“If she’s there it's $760,000 for running second, it's $190,000 in the George Ryder so I'll run second.
“We've been really lucky for a small stable. We have six horses in work and Happy Clapper comes along.
“There are trainers that have 50 in work all year round and never get a Happy Clapper.’’
With only 31 starts under his belt – one less than Winx – for 20 top three finishes and almost $3.6 million in prizemoney there’s no plans for retirement just yet and Webster said he can see Happy Clapper racing for at least another 12 months.