Horse Racing
Clipperton aims at a Booming finish, Murray seeks Fortune at Sha Tin finale

By Andrew Hawkins
14/07/2017 16:00

Sunday’s (16 July) Season Finale at Sha Tin will bring down the curtain on Hong Kong’s 2016/17 campaign, and among the afternoon’s 11 competitive contests is a select yet mouth-watering feature, the Class 1 Sha Tin Mile Trophy (1600m), in which Booming Delight will aim to continue his trajectory towards the big leagues.

Sam Clipperton is set to maintain his partnership with the John Moore-trained galloper, on whom he secured the G3 Lion Rock Trophy Handicap at the course and distance last time. The Australian has been in the plate for seven of the four-year-old’s nine runs this season and he feels that there is further scope for improvement, with some big race targets on the radar next term.

Booming Delight lands the G3 Lion Rock Trophy in style with Sam Clipperton on board.
Booming Delight lands the G3 Lion Rock Trophy in style with Sam Clipperton on board.

“He’s been in great form this season, he’s won four races and he’s been close up in a few others as well,” Clipperton said. “He’s a very consistent horse, he’s always very honest. He’s in a small but very competitive field on Sunday but he should be right in the finish again.

“This season, he’s really raised the bar. He’s won over 2000m and he obviously ran in the Derby, but I feel that his best trip is the 1600m so if he keeps climbing the ladder like he has this season, there’s no reason he can’t end up in a Hong Kong Mile. He’s a horse that can definitely keep improving into next season and we may well see him at the international meeting in December.”

Booming Delight (123lb), who raced as Out And About in the United Kingdom when trained by William Haggas, has taken his rating from 74 on arrival to his current mark of 105 with four wins and four placings from nine starts for Moore. His first tilt at stakes company in the Lion Rock Trophy last time out produced a three-quarter length victory, with Clipperton believing the horse has held his form since then.

“He’s come through the last run great,” he said. “Mr Moore has spaced his runs a little bit this season which seems to have paid off and worked. He’s always quite laidback in his trackwork and only does what he really has to, but physically, looking at the horse, he looks fantastic. He’s in a great frame of mind and his work hasn’t changed right through the season, so he’s a horse that really holds his form well.

“He’s settled into Hong Kong very quickly; being a horse from England, they normally take a bit longer to settle in, but he seems to be thriving here.”

Booming Delight will jump from the outside in the eight-horse field, a gate that doesn’t hold too many concerns for Clipperton.

“It probably makes it a little tricky for myself, but he’s become versatile at his last few runs,” he said. “He’s been jumping out of the gates quite fast but I won’t be pressing forward in any way. If we can be midfield, that’s great, but he’s a horse with a good turn of foot and I’ll be mindful not to be burning the candle at both ends.”

The 2016/17 season has been notable for the emergence in Hong Kong of Clipperton, as well as the young South African Callan Murray. The pair’s paths will diverge in the coming weeks but the jockeys share a common goal in Sunday’s Finale feature – both are striving to end the term with a victory in the last Class 1 of the season.

Murray, too, is on a last start G3 winner as he retains the mount on shock G3 Premier Plate (1800m) hero Horse Of Fortune (133lb) from the Tony Millard stable.

“We thought Pakistan Star was the horse to beat and we expected our guy to just run a nice race,” he said. “You always go out to do your best but Pakistan Star looked very difficult to beat. Obviously, things didn’t go to plan with Pakistan Star, Horse Of Fortune had a very smooth run just behind the lead and he’s a pretty gutsy horse, he dug down deep that day and he won well.”

Callan Murray steers Horse Of Fortune to an impressive victory in the G3 Premier Plate last month.
Callan Murray steers Horse Of Fortune to an impressive victory in the G3 Premier Plate last month.

It is one of four wins that Murray has managed to snare in a two-month riding stint in Hong Kong, of which two have been at G3 level; he also took the G3 Sha Tin Vase (1200m) on Danny Shum’s Lucky Year. However, he acknowledges that he would like to end his stint with another feature win.

“I’ve been very lucky in my time here,” he said. “There have been some great thrills and to win two big races here was something I dreamed about, but never thought would actually come true. I hope that I can win again on Sunday and end what has been an amazing experience on a high note.

“I’ve noticed at this time of the season, anything can win, we’ve seen some funny results – Horse Of Fortune is a case in point last time. They are all pretty open races on Sunday, including this one, so I’m hoping that my horse will give his best here.”

Murray will return to the South African riding ranks in the weeks ahead, where he is looking to leading trainer Mike de Kock, as well as owners Markus and Ingrid Jooste and their racing manager Derek Brugman, for support as he pushes to win the South African jockeys’ title.

“I’m going to give the championship a go back home,” Murray said. “There’s not too many guys going for that, and I’m lucky to have some great backers – obviously Mr De Kock is one of my great supporters, and I’m grateful to him. I also get support from Mr and Mrs Jooste and Mr Brugman, especially down in Port Elizabeth. I think they will probably be my biggest backers, but I am hoping to get support from everyone back home – I will need it if I am to win the championship!”

He also hopes that one day, he can return to Hong Kong and potentially join his countrymen like Bartie Leisher, Basil Marcus, Robbie Fradd and Douglas Whyte, all of whom inscribed their name on the honour roll of Hong Kong Champion Jockeys in the last three decades.

“Without a doubt, I’d like to come back here,” he said. “I think now is the right time to go back with everything I’ve learned over the last few weeks. I think there is still so much to learn at home but I hope that I can come back one day as a better rider, and I can’t wait for the day I get the call to come back.”

Clipperton, meanwhile, is currently locked in a three-way battle with Whyte and Karis Teetan for fourth in the jockeys’ championship, and will remain based at Sha Tin next season. The Australian rider is bracing himself for a tougher sophomore season after his freshman year yielded 40 winners up to Sunday’s finale.

“I’ve been a little bit quiet lately but I have some nice rides on Sunday, so hopefully they can run as well as I think they can,” he said. “Regardless of what happens, though, I’m very happy, I got to 40 wins so I couldn’t ask for much more.

“Next season is going to be a lot tougher, the landscape obviously changes a bit with Tommy (Berry) coming in, but there are going to be two more trainers in Michael (Freedman) and Frankie (Lor) so I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve done this year. I’ve been getting a lot of support from a wide variety of jockeys and trainers, so we’ll keep working hard and hopefully it all comes together.”

The Sha Tin Mile Trophy also features four Cruz-trained runners, including Time Warp (115lb), who has clocked the fastest 1650m and 1800m times at Happy Valley this season and now returns to Sha Tin. The handler is also represented by Romantic Touch (128lb), King Genki (113lb) and Anticipation (113lb), while Shum’s G3 winner Supreme Profit (115lb) and John Size’s emerging three-year-old Beat The Clock (117lb) complete the field.

The Class 1 Sha Tin Mile Trophy (1600m) is scheduled as the eighth of 11 races and will jump at 4.05pm, with the opener, the Class 5 Being Famous Handicap (1200m), to begin the season’s final meeting at 12.30pm.