Jockey Sam Clipperton hopes that a change of environment can help Group 1 winner Rivet to a first Hong Kong victory when he makes his Happy Valley debut in the Class 2 Waratah Handicap (1650m) on Wednesday night (4 July).
Rivet, a winner of the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy (1600m) at Doncaster in 2016, is yet to place from 10 Hong Kong starts.
The John Moore-trained galloper was bought as a Four-Year-Old Classic Series contender and finished fifth in the first two legs, the Hong Kong Classic Mile and the Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m), before finishing a well-beaten 12th in the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) back in March. He was gelded three days after the Derby.
“I think the gelding operation has definitely worked,” Clipperton said at Sha Tin on Tuesday morning (3 July).
“He’s been working well since and his form is steadily improving. I think he’s finally getting to a point where he can win again and I think he’s in a nice race on Wednesday night.”
Last time out, Rivet finished fifth over the Sha Tin 1600m, two and a half lengths from Simply Brilliant, after jumping from a wide gate.
“I thought it was a good run,” the jockey said.
“He drew wide so I had to go back on him and I gave away too much ground, but I was happy to see him hit the line and he showed a bit of zest for racing again.
“He’s drawn well on Wednesday night in one and he’s jumping a lot better from the gates so there’s every chance we’ll take up a bit more of a forward role. I think his last run was definitely good enough for him to be competitive.”
Wednesday will be the first time that the quirky galloper has left Sha Tin since his arrival in Hong Kong last year.
“Happy Valley is a bit of a query but it could work in his favour,” he said.
“It’s something else for him to think about and that can often prove to be a spark. Given the inside draw, we’ll just follow the fence around so it shouldn’t be anything too difficult for him and I think he’ll appreciate the track there. I think the horse is really improving now and I expect him to run well.”
Clipperton, who is preparing to marry his fiancée Morgan at the end of the season, says that he would like to end the term strongly. The Australian rider has notched 17 wins in his sophomore season compared to 40 in his debut campaign.
“It is going to be a significant off-season for me, of course, with the wedding coming up,” Clipperton said. “I would like to get one more winner before the season ends, though, so we’ll be trying our best to end on a high note. We might need it! And hopefully it comes from Rivet, who has been a horse I’ve had a lot to do with this season.”
Rivet meets 11 rivals in the nightcap, including last-start winners Pretty Bauhinia (122lb) and Magnetism (118lb), as well as top-weight Calculation (132lb), second at his most recent run over 1200m on the Sha Tin all-weather track.
Leader set to return to winners’ circle, says Whyte
The night’s feature is the Class 3 Australian Turf Club Trophy Handicap (1200m). Douglas Whyte is set to partner Super Leader (120lb), a horse that he has ridden at 18 of his 29 starts, including to a last-time second behind Super Hoppy at the course and distance.
“He did get a bump there, but the winner was always coming with a lot of purpose and momentum. It impinged him a little bit, but it certainly didn’t cost him the race,” Whyte said of the Dennis Yip-trained Super Leader.
“I think he’s always held his form, but I think the imperative key for him is that he drew a gate. He hasn’t got the initial gate speed and he’s not a horse that really wants to be driven forward, he likes to get into a rhythm and find the line as he showed last start. It should be similar on Wednesday night.”
Super Leader, trained in New Zealand prior to his arrival at Sha Tin, won early in his Hong Kong career, sprinting to a four-length success at his fourth local start in March, 2016. However, he has only won once since, with Whyte saying there are a number of factors responsible for his low strike-rate.
“He’s limited, firstly, and he likes to be fresh,” the 13-time champion jockey said.
“He also likes give in the ground, hence the reason he obviously performs better at Happy Valley and he’ll appreciate the rain around currently. I think, though, once he’s in form, he seems to hold it and run well.”
Also engaged in the trophy event are the Chris So-trained Prince Harmony (132lb), Francis Lui’s Shanghai Master (132lb), Bulb Elite (123lb) for Paul O’Sullivan and Zero Hedge (123lb), representing the John Size yard.
The Australian Turf Club Trophy is the sixth of eight races at Happy Valley on Wednesday night and is scheduled to jump at 9.45pm, with the opener, the Class 5 Balsamine Handicap (1000m), set down for 7.15pm.