By Andrew Hawkins
Jockey Sam Clipperton has had a term to remember with 39 winners to date in his debut season. However, the rider’s first Group-race score in Hong Kong on Booming Delight in the G3 Lion Rock Trophy Handicap (1600m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (4 June) is likely to rank as the defining moment in the young Australian’s freshman spell.
“I’m thrilled,” Clipperton said, “and to do it for John Moore and on this horse, Booming Delight, too, he has been my favourite horse since he started racing here. I do all of his trackwork, I’ve ridden him in most of his starts, I got down to 116 pounds to ride today. It’s a relief, but it’s also a thrill. That’s been the whole season, just amazing.”
Booming Delight settled beyond midfield one-out as the seven-runner field split into two distinct sections: Romantic Touch (126lb) took up the lead at moderate fractions with Blocker Dee (115lb) to his outside and Eastern Express (115lb) just behind, while four lengths away sat Circuit Land (133lb), Harbour Master (124lb) and Booming Delight (116lb), with Doyeni (115lb) bringing up the tail.
At the top of the straight, Clipperton pulled Booming Delight to the centre of the track and, while he looked to have his rivals to his inside covered in a matter of strides, the 23-year-old rider “counted to 10 to make sure I didn’t go too soon.”
“I knew Circuit Land was going to be difficult to get past, so I wasn’t trying to keep Booming Delight under too much of a hold,” Clipperton said. “At the same time, I didn’t want to hit the front too soon. I think that the drop in weight though, it allowed him to sprint stronger and I felt that he had them covered a fair way out.”
At the line, Booming Delight had three-quarters of a length to spare over John Size-trained Eastern Express and Danny Shum’s Circuit Land, stopping the clock in 1m 33.91s. The victory ensured Moore remained the only trainer to win the Lion Rock Trophy, first run last season, the handler having taken the spoils with Rapper Dragon in 2016.
Booming Delight was not initially among entries for the Lion Rock Trophy, with the four-year-old’s next run originally scheduled for 25 June’s G3 Premier Plate (1800m).
“I’m glad we ran him now, obviously,” Moore said. “I just didn’t want to upset the preparation we had already planned, but the owner was happy to change and it has paid off for him. He’s always looked one of our better four-year-olds and it is great to see him join the list of Group winners.”
Now, Moore says the Premier Plate is just one option for the Fastnet Rock gelding before the end of the term.
“We still have the 1800m up our sleeve but we can also look at the Sha Tin Mile Trophy on the last day of the season,” Moore said of the Class 1 feature on 16 July. “I think he will definitely make a December horse, probably a Hong Kong Mile type, I don’t think he needs to stretch out to 2000m again. I just need to keep him sound because he’s a big Fastnet Rock, he can find the tracks a bit firm so we’ll just keep him ticking over.”
With leading riders Joao Moreira and Zac Purton in Tokyo for the Yasuda Kinen, an opportunity presented itself for the rest of Hong Kong’s jockey roster to take advantage.
In the end, it was Italian rider Umberto Rispoli who capitalised, scoring a four-timer on Size-trained pair Ivictory and Jolly Bountiful, Manfred Man’s Laugh Out Loud and Me Tsui-prepared Mongolian King to have the final giggle.
“Now, we are just looking for Joao and Zac to get a permanent licence in Japan,” a beaming Rispoli said jokingly. “Seriously though, it is harder to get four winners here than most places in the world. It means a lot. When you have such good rides on the same day, it can happen, but for it to come together is very exciting.
“It’s the perfect day, and hopefully I can continue to ride many winners in Hong Kong.”
It was Rispoli’s second four-timer in Hong Kong, having achieved the feat on New Year’s Day, 2015.
The pick of Rispoli’s quartet may be Class 4 winner Ivictory (133lb), who took the second section of the Sha Tin Heights Handicap (1200m) to remain unbeaten.
“He’s a very nice horse,” Rispoli said. “It was just his second start, he carried 133 so I was happy to take a trail. It took time for the gap to appear but when it did, he responded like a good horse. I think he will probably be able to do the same in Class 3, because he did it so easily. He’s fairly mature, but he’s still learning.”
Size’s double took the trainer to 86 wins and within five victories of Tony Cruz’s record for winners in a season – 91, set in 2005/06 – with 11 meetings left in the term.
Also edging closer to a milestone was 10-pound apprentice Dylan Mo, his brace on Moore’s Rewarding Flyer and Francis Lui-prepared Marvel Tribe taking him to 16 wins. He only needs four more successes before his claim reduces to seven pounds.
Moore’s Derby prospect Rockets home
Aside from feature success, Moore stamped an initial claim on the 2018 BMW Hong Kong Derby as Australian import Rocketeer scored his first Hong Kong win in the Class 2 Hong Kong Young Industrialists Council Silver Jubilee Cup Handicap (2000m) over the Derby course and distance.
Rocketeer is owned by Kevin Hung, whose father Albert owned this year’s Derby winner Rapper Dragon. It was this race meeting in 2016 that Rapper Dragon stamped himself as early Derby favourite with his easy success in the inaugural Lion Rock Trophy, and Moore suggested the family could dream of back-to-back victories in the four-year-old classic after Rocketeer’s two and a half length win under Douglas Whyte.
“It’s a change of luck for the Hung family, and they have another Derby prospect to look forward to next season,” said Moore. “This horse was my first Derby purchase for next season, we bought him after he ran in the Victoria Derby last November. He wasn’t my first choice, I was chasing Inference who went on to win the Randwick Guineas, but like many of them he wasn’t for sale. This horse was, and he always looked like he’d be better with six months under his belt, he was on the leg.”
Rocketeer had finished near the tail in his first two runs over a mile, but the switch to Happy Valley and the step up to 1800m last start saw him show a glimmer of form when sixth to Packing Dragon.
“I’ve been bringing him along very slowly, letting him find his legs and acclimatise,” Moore said. “He started to show a bit of form last start at Happy Valley, he was getting to the line and that told me that he was not far off. I didn’t do much with him going into this as he was a fit horse after the last race. He was focused, he was ready and he just outstayed them. From my point of view, though, he’s done what we wanted this season, to win one race at least. Now he can progress on to next season as one of our Derby contenders.”
Moore admitted he had confidence heading into Sunday’s Class 2, believing that it offered an easier test than many races in the same grade: “I expected him to do something like that, probably not win as easily as that but, with the exception of Dinozzo who disappointed, I didn’t hold the rest of them in that high esteem. He’ll progress on to another 2000m Class 2 next month where he will be up against some better horses, including Helene Charisma.”
Racing returns to Happy Valley on Wednesday night (7 June) for an eight-race card, with the opening contest scheduled for 7:15pm.
Umberto Rispoli guides Ivictory to win the second section of the Class 4 Sha Tin Heights Handicap (1200m).
Rocketeer races away to win the Class 2 Hong Kong Young Industrialists Council Silver Jubilee Cup Handicap (2000m) for John Moore and Douglas Whyte.