By Ray Hickson
Jockey Tim Clark, closing in on a milestone 1000 career wins, has been one of Sydney racing’s quiet achievers but that could change around 4.13pm on Saturday afternoon if he claims his first Golden Slipper on Santos.
The in-form colt has the benefit of the experience of six-time Slipper winning trainer Gai Waterhouse, and co-trainer Adrian Bott, and Clark is rapt to have been afforded the same backing on a week-to-week basis this season.
The 31-year-old, who rode his 997th career winner at Newcastle on Thursday (according to Racing And Sports), said Santos is easily his best prospect of a win in the $3.5m Longines Golden Slipper (1200m) at Rosehill on Saturday at what will be his fifth ride in the world’s richest two-year-old event.
“The four majors are the races that are very important. It’d be a massive thrill to win a Slipper, the premier two-year-old race in the world,’’ Clark said.
“I’m getting a lot of support from Gai and Adrian and it’s the first time I’ve had a big stable supporting me regularly.''
Clark has ridden 23 winners for the Waterhouse/Bott yard from 96 rides so far in 2017/18.
He has eight career Group 1s to his name and describes his Slipper record as average but he hasn’t ridden a horse under $10 in the market previously with Santos ($8.50 with TAB) easily his shortest priced hopeful.
His other mounts to date have been Trapeze Artist (6th at $21 in 2017), Law (16th at $81 in 2014), Va Pensiero (11th at $101 in 2013) and Husson Lightning (11th at $31 in 2007).
“Last year Trapeze Artist ran sixth and he ran really well, the heavy track probably didn’t help him,’’ Clark said.
“Santos’ timing is probably a bit better, he’s had the runs early in the season and won his two runs back in.’’
Like all of Waterhouse’s male Golden Slipper winners, Santos contested the first two-year-old race of the season, the Breeders’ Plate, where, like 2004 winner Dance Hero, he ran third to Performer.
An impressive first-up win in the Pierro Plate, with a dashing last 200m of 11.57 (Punters Intel), announced Santos as a live Slipper chance then he made much harder work of claiming the Group 2 Skyline Stakes (1200m) at Randwick on February 3.
Waterhouse has used the Dance Hero formula with Santos by giving him three weeks between runs into the Slipper plus a barrier trial.
Santos grips on to win the Skyline Stakes at Randwick on February 3
“He’s going into the race in good shape and in what looks to be a somewhat open Slipper he’s a good chance because he has the right people behind him,’’ Clark said.
“He put his hand up when he won first-up.
“He only scrambled home the other day but he had a bit against him so hopefully the three weeks between runs and a solid trial in between does the trick.’’
Clark said he respects the two favourites, Sunlight and Written By, but is adamant if Santos handles himself and the conditions well he’ll be right in the finish.
“I think he has the talent and the physical attributes, mentally he has to handle the occasion,’’ he said.
“I’m unsure on a wet track, he trialled well on it the other day but it’s hard to tell.’’
Clark’s other rides on Slipper day include Classic Unform (G1 Ranvet Stakes), Snitty Kitty (G1 The Galaxy) and Slow Burn (G3 Birthday Card Stakes).