By Ray Hickson
Pat Webster says there’s nothing new to report about his ageless warrior Happy Clapper and that’s a great thing.
The nine-year-old starts another autumn preparation in the Group 2 $250,000 Aquis Apollo Stakes (1400m) at Randwick on Saturday this time around there’s no Winx to chase home or look over the shoulder for but Webster is wary about the up and comers trying to fill her void.
And that is likely to shape Happy Clapper’s preparation beyond his first target, the Group 1 Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m) in two weeks.
“He’s very well, probably 75 per cent fitness wise and the run will top him off for the mile in the Chipping Norton,’’ Webster said.
“He’s shown us no signs of anything this time in to say he's any different than any other prep.
“He always runs well first-up, if it was a soft 6 going into Saturday I’d say he’d be very close to winning. I’m looking forward to Saturday but not looking forward to a heavy track.’’
Happy Clapper has only raced on a heavy track three times in his 44 starts with a second in the 2017 Doncaster Mile his best result but he did run Winx to three-quarters of a length on a soft 7 in a George Ryder.
Happy Clapper runs fifth in his second trial at Randwick on February 6
He has finished in the first three in nine of his 13 first-up attempts and has been runner-up at the start of his past two preparations over 1400m at Randwick, behind Winx in last year’s Apollo Stakes and to Samadoubt in the Winx Stakes.
That’s the Mr Consistency nature Webster speaks of about the Clapper and the trainer has seen in his two barrier trials with Tommy Berry in the saddle, both without blinkers, that he’s the same Happy Clapper that posted a memorable Craven Plate (2000m) win on Everest Day.
A virus forced Webster to spell Happy Clapper and miss a planned run in the inaugural $1m The Gong but said that enabled him to give the gelding a decent break.
He said it was the Craven Plate win which put the Group 1 $700,000 Ranvet Stakes (2000m) on March 21 on the table as a strategic target opposed to races like the George Ryder, on the same day, and carrying a big weight in the Doncaster Mile.
“There are a fair few up and coming horses like Te Akau Shark, Chris Waller’s four-year-olds and even some of the three-year-olds and those other races are all around a mile,’’ he said.
“Some horses get a mile and not 2000m so we might have to use the Apollo and Chipping Norton as stepping stones to the Ranvet.
“It can be a bit thin from time to time, if you look at his 2000m runs he’s had genuine excuses and even when he won the Craven Plate he had excuses if he was beaten.
“Apart from the Epsom all his Group 1s have been in the autumn and I think that speaks volumes.’’
Happy Clapper opened at $6 with TAB in the Apollo behind Godolphin mare Alizee ($2.90).