Australian Sam Clipperton a Rising Star in Hong Kong Horse Racing
The success of Sam Clipperton has been one of the main storylines of the current Hong Kong racing season and the plot developed further after the freshman Australian rider scored a treble at Sha Tin on Sunday (12 March).
Clipperton returned from a hit-and-run trip to his native Sydney, where he rode a G3 winner and was just nosed out in the G1 Coolmore Classic (1500m) on Saturday (11 March), and he bounced back into Hong Kong racing with a bang, taking two of the first three races – both for trainer Tony Millard. He won the Class 5 Snapdragon Handicap (1650m) on Atomic Blast (119lb) and the first section of the Class 4 Oncidium Handicap (1400m) on Bold Stitch (127lb), before later adding the Class 2 Cymbidium Handicap (1650m) on John Moore-trained People’s Knight (121lb).
“It’s been a whirlwind 24 hours, that’s for sure,” Clipperton said. “But to ride winners in both Australia and Hong Kong over a weekend, that’s a dream and I can’t believe how this season keeps progressing. I’m very happy at the moment.
The three-timer took him to equal fourth in the jockeys’ championship on 29 wins, alongside another former Sydney rider in Nash Rawiller.
Moore was especially effusive in his praise for Clipperton, saying the 23-year-old has maturity and ability well beyond his years.
“He’s been part of the team since day one,” Moore said. “When Tommy (Berry) rang me and told me he was coming here, he told me you wouldn’t find a nicer boy. And when I watched him in Sydney yesterday, he asked me for my opinion and I told him that I thought he rode great. He would have won the G1 if he had drawn a gate and he was only just beaten by Tye Angland’s ride.
“I always think that you gain confidence riding up here in Hong Kong. There have been so many young jockeys that we see come here and ride well and then they go back home and they are better riders, they are sharper and they have a greater appreciation of different styles. I think we saw that with Sam yesterday, although I hope that he is here for a while yet – he is very talented.”
Moore confirmed that Clipperton would not ride Booming Delight, who he has partnered to three wins this season, in the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) with Ryan Moore jetting in to take the mount, but he revealed that Clipperton would now be aboard G1 Queensland Derby (2400m) runner-up Rodrico in the four-year-old. However, he has also booked the rider for a prized mount on the undercard.
“He will ride Able Friend next weekend,” Moore confirmed, with the 2014/15 Horse of the Year to join Helene Paragon, Dashing Fellow and Invincible Dragon in a Class 1 handicap over 1400m. “Joao (Moreira) will ride Invincible Dragon, and Sam is a valuable part of the team so I’m happy to have him on Able Friend.”
People’s Knight provided Clipperton with his 13th winner for Moore, the rider having scored on the Exceed And Excel four-year-old twice in a week late last year. And the trainer believes that the horse may have found his niche on the surface.
“On breeding, it always looked like he would enjoy the dirt,” Moore said. “The Exceed And Excels go OK on the dirt, but he’s out of a Dehere mare. The way he accelerated there, he clearly loves it, so I’ll just keep him to this course and distance I think until I’m forced to look elsewhere.”
A mere 35 minutes after People’s Knight’s victory, Moore-trained Go Beauty Go (120lb) dead-heated with John Size’s What Else But You (129lb) in the Class 3 Hyacinth Handicap (1600m) to make it a double for the International Sale Griffins (ISGs) ahead of Friday’s (17 March) Hong Kong International Sale (HKIS).
Go Beauty Go was purchased for HK$6 million at last year’s HKIS and made it three wins from his last four starts with his gritty dead-heat victory under Zac Purton.
“The Kwok family bought the horse last year at the Sale and I was lucky enough that they entrusted me with this horse,” Moore said. “He’s very well-bred as a full-brother to a multiple G1 winner in Alamosa, and he’s one of the many success stories selected by Mark Richards. We will be looking for another horse like him on Friday.
“He’s really strengthened up in recent weeks and he’s now showing a great will to win. I know Alamosa was at his best at a mile but the way this horse races, he looks like he should be able to handle 1800m. Zac really took the race by the horns there, he bounced out and led and the horse was very gallant late.”
Earlier, Danny Shum-trained Gorgeous Again – another purchased at last year’s HKIS – made it two wins in a row with as he tenaciously held off Dennis Yip-trained favourite Garlic Yeah in the Class 4 Primula Handicap (2200m).
Eye to the future as Moreira, Mo ride doubles
It may not have been the eight-timer that electrified Sha Tin last Sunday (5 March), but Joao Moreira scored two wins that could have implications for next season and beyond.
Moreira maintained the unbeaten records of Chris So-trained Bravo Watchman (118lb) in the Class 3 Dendrobium Handicap (1000m) and John Size’s Nothingilikemore (129lb) in the Class 3 Geranium Handicap (1000m), with both three-year-olds looming as potential Four-Year-Old Classic Series horses in 2018.
Bravo Watchman had won with ease down the straight on debut, prompting So to suggest laughingly that he could be the next horse the handler travels overseas after taking Fabulous One to Dubai this year. However, he was forced to work harder for his win on Sunday, settling in behind the speed and under a ride from Moreira from the 600m. He prevailed by a head over straight-course specialist Ace King.
“I think he’s looking for 1200m now,” So said. “He’s just so green, he was fractious in the gates and then he was looking for something to take him into the race. He is such a big horse that in his trials, he looked uncomfortable turning, that’s why I kept him to the straight. But I now think that if he can learn to relax even more, the bend might be the key to him showing the acceleration we saw from him on debut. Who knows, he could even be a Classic Mile horse next year!”
Nothingilikemore had impressed with his versatility at his first two starts, coming from near the rear on debut before leading at fast sectionals at his second outing. Sunday saw him sit just behind an even tempo set by Clipperton on Mythical Emperor, eventually striding clear for a two-length success that will put him up into Class 2.
“It’s a big ask for him to keep going now, but I want to see how the horse is,” trainer Size said. “He’s clearly a very nice horse but there’s plenty of racing for him at four, five, six, and I don’t want to burn him as a three-year-old by taking on talented older horses too early. Let’s see how he pulls up, I have no firm plans as yet but he will be a nice horse for next season.”
Also riding a double was 10-pound claimer Dylan Mo, who trebled his total Hong Kong win tally from one to three with his two victories. He took the Class 4 Kalanchoe Handicap (1200m) on Shamal (123lb), leading all the way, before making all on G-One Lover (110lb) in the second section of the Class 4 Oncidium Handicap (1400m).
Hong Kong racing returns to Happy Valley on Wednesday night (15 March) for an eight-race card that begins at 7:15pm, while the next Sha Tin meeting will be the bumper BMW Hong Kong Derby card next Sunday (19 March).