Pat Webster is confident stable favourite Happy Clapper can continue to make strides towards the Epsom Handicap when he resumes a one-sided rivalry with Winx.
The Randwick trainer has set the seven-year-old the challenge of a top-three placing in Saturday’s Group One George Main Stakes (1600m), a goal that seems achievable.
Webster wasn’t exactly bullish about Happy Clapper bettering the world’s greatest horse of turf at his fifth attempt, but he was upbeat the gelding could produce another dogged effort on his home track.
Happy Clapper started his campaign for the Epsom Handicap (1600m) in style with victory in the Group Two Tramway Stakes (1400m) at Randwick on September 2 and backs up over the longer trip as the TAB’s joint $15 second favourite on Tuesday.
Le Romain, who is also at $15, will race in Saturday’s Group One Makybe Diva Stakes in Melbourne.
Winx, who is aiming to stretch her winning sequence to 20, led the market at $1.10 ahead of Wednesday’s declaration of the final field.
“He goes good second-up. We’re out there to win but we’re taking on a champion aren’t we?” Webster said.
Webster said Happy Clapper had recovered well from his first-up run and had not been overly taxed leading into the weekend.
The George Main is Happy Clapper’s final race before the Epsom on September 30 at Randwick, a race he finished fourth in last year when it was won by Hauraki.
Webster also had Happy Clapper’s half brother Thankgodyou’rehere contest the Epsom in 2011 and was rapt to have another Group One-quality horse in his team.
“I’m just so privileged and so happy to have a horse that’s able to run in Group Ones at this stage of my career,” he said.
“If he runs first three he’ll be on target for where he’s going.
“He’ll take improvement out of the Tramway and hopefully he’ll take more improvement out of Saturday as well.”
Happy Clapper has an impressive second-up record of three wins and a placing from six races, but as Webster pointed out he has never run in a Group One second-up and he’s never run over 1600 second-up.