RANDWICK trainer Pat Webster was eyeing another shot at the Doncaster Mile, with a confident view to the Doomben Cup, after Happy Clapper cruised to victory in the group 3 Newcastle Newmarket Handicap (1400 metres) on Friday.
Blake Shinn put the $3.60 favourite third, close to the pace set by Chetwood, before he took over at the 300m mark and powered to a 3½-length win from Newcastle-trained Got Unders.
Happy Clapper was 19th in the order of entry at 53.5kg for the 20-horse, $3 million Doncaster on April 1 before the win. Webster chose the $150,000 Newmarket over Saturday’s $1 million George Ryder Stakes against Winx at Rosehill on Saturday as a lead-in to the Doncaster and he was happy with the decision. It was the six-year-old gelding’s first win since the 2015 Villiers Stakes, although he was second in the Doncaster and third in the Cox Plate to Winx last year.
“I wasn’t watching on the best TV here and one of my friends said he’s going to bolt in, which is an absolute jinx when they say that,” Webster said. “I thought he might have been a bit too close, but that’s the first time he’s been ridden that close, but he’s got blinkers and he used to hit a flat spot, so hopefully he gets a kilo now and Blake can ride him in the Doncaster.”
Happy Clapper was second in the Canberra National Sprint a month ago first up and Webster said he was only “80 per cent” fit.
“He’s had a bowed tendon so he always takes a couple of runs and I’ve got to look after him,” he said. “I’m not a hard trainer with him at the best of times, but he’s had a good blow and that will peak him today.”
Happy Clapper was $15 for the Doncaster, which will not feature Winx this year. Webster said Happy Clapper would then head to the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, the Hollindale Cup and “I’m really looking forward to the Doomben Cup – Blake said it to me 18 months ago, that it’s a good race for him, and I think he’s right.”
The new $11.2 million course proper, which held its first full meeting, was the other star. Despite copping heavy rain, the track was a soft 6 on a day three Saturday meetings were abandoned.
“It’s fantastic, isn’t it good that we’ve got a track like this now in NSW,” Webster said.
Newcastle trainer Jay Hopkins was thrilled to take second in his and Got Unders debut in black-type company. The seven-year-old gelding, which is owned the trainer and his family, delivered Hopkins his first winner anywhere at Randwick in January and he unsure early in the week whether to take on the class field at home.
“It was obviously going to be a hard race for him, the winner is a genuine group 1 horse, so to run second to him was great,” Hopkins said.