By Brad Gray
The immediate reaction from Pat Webster after Happy Clapper was beaten by Winx in the George Main Stakes was that “she’s cost us two Group Ones now!”
The other occasion was of course the 2016 Doncaster Handicap. However, Blake Shinn would dearly love to right the wrong and give Happy Clapper, who has a staggering $2.4m in prize money to his name, his deserved maiden Group One.
“I really hope for Pat Webster’s sake that he can get that Group One because he has done an amazing job with the horse. Pat does a lot for the industry and he deserves it,” Shinn said after Tuesday’s barrier draw for the TAB Epsom Handicap.
“He has got the best form lines of any horse going in so I’m very confident. He is in with the right weight to win.”
The seven-year-old, who has returned in career best form this spring, drew barrier 4 in the 14 strong field which by Shinn’s admission, gives him plenty of options.
“He has tactical speed and is going to get every chance. You’ve got Red Excitement drawn 3 and a few horses out wide like Comin’ Through and Embley so there is going to be a lot of pressure. I’ve just got to get him into a nice comfortable rhythm,” Shinn said.
“He sat three the fence in the Doncaster, was midfield the other day and was one-one when he won first up over 1400m so he’ll be in a position where I want him to be.”
Brenton Avdulla, who rides Red Excitement, sees this year’s Epsom as one of the most open editions in recent years and doesn’t see it as a race in two like the betting market somewhat suggests.
“Happy Clapper was enormous the other day but he has to back up another peak performance and Egg Tart is second up after a run off a fast tempo,” Avdulla said.
“My bloke is in form, rock hard fit and Gerald’s team is flying. His first up run was super, his second up run as enormous, and probably a career peak, and I thought in his third run he might have just found the edge.
“Gerald has got him in career best form and I think he has found a winnable Epsom. It’s not overly strong and he looks like he is going to get a good run from wherever he is. Whether he ends up in front or behind a couple I’m not sure, but he is not going to be doing any work.”