The intensity of Sha Tin was evident everywhere on Wednesday. The observation of trackwork of both local and international runners steps up a notch towards the LONGINES HKIR meeting in Sunday, more and more racing participants from around the world arrive, with greetings and meetings held trackside and elsewhere.
There is the same intensity behind the scenes as well. Australian jockey Sam Clipperton, 24, is in his third season at Sha Tin and he is looking at this season with a mixture of appreciation of what riding in Hong Kong has brought and frustration of finding himself down the championship table.
This is a tough unforgiving riding environment, up one moment and riding for next season’s ticket the next.
Clipperton has ridden 62 winners in Hong Kong, but each one is only as good as the next one. He has being fighting for rides this season and many of those have come from the powerful John Size stable including on the current leading sprinter and probable starting favourite for the Group 1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) on Sunday in Hot King Prawn (AUS).
Then comes the news that Joao Moreira is coming back from Japan to take up the number stable riding position for Size. More pressure, more intensity all the way down the jockey ranks and particularly for Clipperton.
Clipperton, though, is philosophical about the current state of affairs and he looks for the positive aspects and the road ahead.
“Things have being going okay this season, I have being getting lots of support off John Size which is very good, Paul O’Sullivan has also been very good. I am up to four winners with a lot of placings which is frustrating, but at the same time it is around the mark so I cannot be too frustrated,” he said this week with a maturity not many 24 year-old’s might display.
“I am just happy to be getting rides off John and I am actually doing some work for him which is good.
“Joe coming will make it tougher for me so that is a bit unknown, look I just take it week by week and try and work as hard as I can.
“I feel that I am riding really well and I feel like I am really noticing the two and a half years I have been here I have developed a lot.
“My first season it was just a big blur, I ended up riding 40 winners, I was learning, but I did not know it. The last season I only rode 18 winners, but looking back I had a pretty good season, I had three Group 1 seconds and went to Japan and had a really good learning season, a good experience season.
“This season I have the four winners and a Group 2 win on Hot King Prawn which was a great thrill. As I said I am riding a lot of placings so I feel like I have had that chance. I am riding good and just need to get on the right cattle and be riding for the right stable,” he said.
Hot Kong Prawn and Sam Clipperton, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
Working on the international stage, which Hong Kong is not just in HKIR week, requires a skill set that must be grasped quickly and then acted on. Being a two time Sydney Champion Apprentice jockey is one achievement, a very fine one at that on a world class riding bench, but coming to Hong Kong is a another step up all together.
“The intensity of the environment here, a number of things join into one, the off track side and the business of how you handle things, PR, you have to promote yourself, literally that is half of it, there is so much more to it,” explains Clipperton.
“You learn a lot as I said and you do not even know you are and I feel that I have developed as a jockey as well as a person. Whatever happens it has been a great learning curve,” he said.
On Sunday Clipperton rides one of Size’s formidable team for the Hong Kong Sprint, D B Pin (NZ), who was second in the race last year to Mr Stunning (AUS).
D B Pin was a 4 1/4L last of nine to Hot King Prawn in the lead-up Group 1 BOCHK Wealth Management Sprint over 1200m on November 18th in his first start since January. He will be fitter for the run.
Sha Tin was still warm, although overcast, on Wednesday as eyes look anxiously towards Sunday’s meeting with a cold front expected to roll in from Mainland China. The temperatures are expected to drop to 15c/17c from the current 20’s, but with rain not now expected until the evening.
Track footnotes – Japanese runners Persian Knight (JPN), Deirdre (JPN) and Vivlos (JPN) caught the eye.
Persian Knight is a good looking four-year-old entire by Harbinger and he arrives after a head second to Stelvio (JPN) in the Grade 1 Mile Championship over 1600m at Kyoto on November 18th, a race he won at three the year before.
Vivlos, a five-year-old mare by Deep Impact, does not come off the same form being eighth in the Grade 1 Tenno Sho Autumn over 2000m at Tokyo on October 28th. However, she galloped with verve on the Turf. Both take on Beauty Generation in the Mile.
Deirdre, another four-year-old mare and also by Harbinger, continued her gallop into the back straight looking bright and alert to the task ahead in the LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m).
Her 2018 form line is impeccable. A dead-heat for third in the Group 1 Dubai Turf over 1800m ay Meydan in March and wins in the Group 2 Queen Stakes over 1800m at Sapporo in July and the Group 2 Fuchu Himba Stakes over 1800m at Tokyo on October 13th. The mare takes on Werther (NZ) in the Cup.
Deirdre (JPN) on the Turf on Wednesday, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club