Veteran 10-year-old Ihtsahymn entered the...
There has been an early betting plunge on Pat Webster’s grand old campaigner Happy Clapper ahead of the weekend’s major with the nine-year-old firming in the 2019 Winx Stakes odds at Royal Randwick.
This Saturday marks the 42nd career start for the Teofilo gelding who has netted over $6.8 million in prize money ahead of his first-up run in the Group 1 $500,000 Winx Stakes (1400m) in Sydney.
It is a star-studded Winx Stakes field of 10 this season with a host of Group 1 champions set to do battle in the early Sydney Spring Racing Carnival feature.
Drawn mid-field in gate five with Hugh Bowman in the saddle is the always-honest Happy Clapper.
Bowman chases his fifth straight win in the race following his four victories for trainer Chris Waller aboard Royal Descent (2015) and then three-time champion Winx (2016-18) who the race is now named in honour of.
Happy Clapper came up against the ‘Queen of the Turf’ Winx 11 times before her retirement for a commanding record that included five second placings behind the world’s best racehorse.
His last start was in Winx’s swansong race when finishing six lengths back fourth behind her in the Group 1 $4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Randwick back in mid-April.
A noted first-up performer (12:4-3-1), Happy Clapper has start number 23 at Randwick in the Winx Stakes and current markets at Ladbrokes.com.au have him firming in from $6 to $4.20 to post his first victory since the Group 1 Doncaster Mile (1600m) in April of 2018.
Saturday is the first time Bowman has ridden Happy Clapper at the races, but the top hoop has been aboard for the galloper’s two lead-up trials at Randwick.
Favourite in Winx Stakes betting this weekend meanwhile is the Godolphin-raced Avilius ($3.20 out to $3.40).
Avilius is two-from-two at Randwick to date and looked on track for a big run fresh with his lead-up Rosehill trial win over 1000m on August 6.
With a 50% winning strike rate first-up, the now six-year-old was last seen dominating his autumn targets taking out Rosehill’s Group 1 Ranvet Stakes (2000m) – Group 1 Tancred Stakes (2400m) double on Heavy tracks by a combined margin of over four and a half-lengths.
The query for Avilius ahead of his return to racing is the Winx Stakes distance (1400m) with the $2.4 million earner yet to win over less than a mile (1600m).
“I must say it’s been quite enjoyable to see him return, off the back of two dominant Group I weight-for-age wins,” trainer James Cummings told Racenet this week.
“He’s going to be racing against the best of the best this preparation so I’ve got my feet on the ground when it comes to expecting results from him every time we saddle him up.
“The truth is that the scenario we face on Saturday is such that we have to be prepared that he could run a slashing race and finish unplaced against these horses at seven furlongs.
“I’ve not run the horse over seven furlongs in Australia and he didn’t race under a mile when he was in France.
“Situations could unfold in the race that work for him but they could just as easily go the other way. It’s a weight-for-age race.
“There’s a lot of unknowns on Saturday but I am prepared to say my horse will run well.”
Rounding out the single-figure fancies at current Winx Stakes odds of $3.90 is the best fancied of the four-horse Waller contingent, Verry Elleegant.
The Zed mare debuts as a four-year-old after an outstanding autumn that saw her win three on the trot.
The first in the winning streak was a massive three and a half-length victory over the boys on a Heavy (10) Rosehill track in the Group 2 Phar Lap Stakes (1500m).
The filly then proved her class on another mud track returning to Rosehill to beat home a field of her own kind by nearly two lengths in the Group 1 Vinery Stud Stakes (2000m).
Verry Elleegant went on to prove her versatility at Randwick on Queen Elizabeth Stakes Day taking out the Group 1 ATC Oaks (2400m) over the mile and a half by another two lengths this time saluting on Good (4) ground.
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