Yesterday is history and tomorrow’s a mystery, but a proud Sam Clipperton was content to revel in the present at Sha Tin this afternoon, Sunday 21 October, after the exciting Hot King Prawn (122lb) breathed new life into his Hong Kong career with a dynamic success in the Premier Bowl Handicap (1200m).
Clipperton made a flying start to his Hong Kong adventure with 40 winners in his first full season but his career slowed with just 18 successes last term and he approached this prestigious Group 2 contest on the hot seat with just a solitary winner from 37 rides this season.
No amount of outward calm could disguise the fact that this was a huge opportunity to justify the faith that John Size has shown in the 24-year-old Aussie and Clipperton and his precocious young partner never missed a beat from the moment the gates crashed open.
Zac Purton was clearly determined to secure a prominent position aboard hot favourite Ivictory (133lb) but Hot King Prawn had no trouble securing the lead on the inside while showing the same fluent, loping stride that had carried him to seven wins from his first eight starts.
Mr Stunning (133lb) emerged as a new threat after Ivictory retreated tamely with around 300m to run, but Hot King Prawn delivered a striking second effort once Clipperton sought maximum effort and was firmly in command thereafter to hold the strong-finishing Fifty Fifty (128lb) by a length and a quarter.
Mr Stunning showed his fire still burns after a lengthy break by only losing second on the line. He in turn was clear of Born In China in fourth, but Pingwu Spark beat only one home and Ivictory proved a major disappointment in trailing home last.
Clipperton punched the air on pulling up and emerged from the weighing room with a beaming smile and a typically measured appraisal of what his biggest Hong Kong success means on various levels.
“I’ve had some special moments back home in Australia but to ride my biggest winner in Hong Kong is a great buzz and I feel very privileged,” he said.
“It’s great to be able to repay the faith of a loyal supporter like John Size. I’ve only had a handful of winners for him but he keeps putting me on. I’ve had three Group 1 seconds for him and he’s taken me to Japan so it’s great to get a victory like this under our belts together.”
Well aware that Hot King Prawn was receiving 6lb and 11lb respectively from Fifty Fifty and Mr Stunning, Clipperton conceded that Hot King Prawn still has a little to prove against the very best at set weights but is confident he has the attributes to make his mark in races like the Group 2 Jockey Club Sprint and the Group 1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint.
He added: “I was a bit worried about how much speed was drawn inside and whether we would get a smooth run, but Hot King Prawn musters so much speed in such a short time out of the barriers that he takes all that out of the equation and that’s what good sprinters do.
“We got across the field within a hundred metres and from then on it was pretty much all over. I was able to throw the brakes on and because I got those cheap sectionals mid race it was always going to be very hard for them to run us down.”
Purton puzzled by Ivictory flop
Karis Teetan reported that former Size trainee Mr Stunning recorded “a brilliant first run of the season” and feels improvement is assured once Frankie Lor’s new recruit reaches peak fitness.
By contrast, Purton was “very disappointed” with the way Ivictory lost his place. “He travelled pretty comfortably and got a nice run outside the winner,” he said. “But when I asked him there was nothing there.”
Size’s skill means there will be other days for Ivictory, while stablemates D B Pin and Beat The Clock will add further strength to his powerful sprint team in the coming months.
However, with nothing confirmed as to whether Size will have a new stable jockey in position by December, Clipperton’s attentions are now focussed on the next phase of his Hong Kong career with the emphasis on controlling what is controllable.
“I’ve won on Hot King Prawn, so we’ll see what connections decide to do, and my plan is simply to continue working hard to repay John’s faith,” he added.
“I don’t pay any mind to other people’s business,” he added. “Joao Moreira and John Size have a lot more history between them than I do with John, but all I can do is give each ride I get every chance and keep moving forward.”
The fact that Clipperton is operating on a half-season licence means further big-race success would be a huge help in securing his Hong Kong future.
“Of course I want to be here beyond February, but I’ve only been given a six-month contract and so we just have to see how it goes,” he said.
“This was a big day for me. I do know there is room for improvement in a Group 1, and that’s in the back of my mind, but at the moment I just want to enjoy this. I certainly won’t be forgetting it anytime soon.”
The day’s other feature, the Group 2 Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy, was won in thrilling style by last season’s Hong Kong Horse of the Year Beauty Generation.
John Moore’s gelding made all and refused to be denied when Singapore Sling challenged to confirm himself one of the best milers in the world.