Happy Clapper has ended a 15-month absence from the winner’s circle with an emphatic victory in the Group Three Newmarket Handicap at Newcastle.
The six-year-old will now attempt to become the first horse since Patezza in 2005 to claim the Newcastle Newmarket – Doncaster Mile double.
The class horse in Friday’s field, Happy Clapper settled third behind leader Chetwood and sprinted clear in the straight to score by 3-1/2 lengths from Got Unders with Kellyville Flyer another three-quarters of a length third.
Jockey Blake Shinn said the ease of Happy Clapper’s win showed the horse was on target for another shot at the Doncaster in which he beat all but champion Winx last year.
“He began much better today, I was able to put him in a prominent spot,” Shinn said.
“He can hit that flat spot so I elected to put him in the race early around the bend and he won very dominantly.
“Onwards and upwards to the Doncaster now.”
Trainer Pat Webster was rapt to see the horse return to winning form and said his class shone through.
“You never knock back a win,” Webster said.
“You’ve only got to look at his form, I think his worst run was in a Cox Plate and he only finished two lengths behind Winx (in the 2016 Doncaster).”
With doubts over Doncaster topweight Black Heart Bart taking his place following a stable mishap, weights are likely to rise at least half a kilo, opening the door for Shinn to stick with Happy Clapper who has 53.5kg in the feature.
“They might even go up a kilo and then Blake will ride him,” Webster said.
Chetwood was aiming to add the Newmarket to his Cameron Handicap win at the provincial track in September but compounded late to finish down the track.
Stewards quizzed jockey William Buick who admitted the effort was disappointing.
“At the halfway he felt great but in not even a split second he folded underneath me,” Buick said.
The Newmarket meeting was the first feature program at Newcastle since its $11 million track redevelopment and the new surface was praised by jockeys and trainers for its ability to cope with the heavy rain.