Joao Moreira looks hard to beat in the Jockey Challenge at Sha Tin but perhaps Sam Clipperton is the most likely to upset the Magic Man with his solid book of rides.
Five of Moreira’s 10 rides were favourites in early markets, including at least three Chris So Wai-yin-trained runners that could start odds-on; Gouten of Garo, Eighty Eighty and Bravo Watchman.
Not surprisingly, Moreira opened a rock solid $1.40 top pick in Jockey Challenge betting, with Clipperton the only other rider rated a single-figure chance.
He only has eight rides to Moreira’s 10, but Clipperton is on two early favourites of his own and all but two of his rides were at the pointy end of the market on Friday night.
Clipperton’s two rides for first-year trainer Michael Freedman in races five and six might be key to his chances of bringing about an upset result, with Sparkling Dragon and Lady First both a big chance on debut.
Boosting Clipperton’s confidence is Sparkling Dragon’s most recent trial on the dirt in which the three-year-old went past Gouten Of Garo under a hold.
Sparkling Dragon has drawn awkwardly in the Class Four Panasonic 4K OLED TV Handicap (1,200m) but so has red-hot favourite Eighty Eighty and Clipperton said the gate might not be such a disadvantage.
“Sometimes when you draw inside on a young horse you need to dig them up just to hold a spot,” he said. “But from barrier 14, especially with the rail in the A position, we can cruise over and find a spot. There is the danger of being stuck three wide, but he is not going to be over on the fence being bumped around. You can keep everything smooth – that’s the positive out of what looks like a negative on paper.
“If he has some luck in running and a smooth run he should be right in it. He is a very switched-on, natural running horse and he has improved from trial to trial. He is taking natural improvement but he should show something early.”
Clipperton also reunites with the John Moore-trained Booming Delight in the Class One Panasonic Cup (1,400m).
The Australian jockey won four from eight on Booming Delight last season, including the Group Three Lion Rock Trophy, and is back aboard as the four-year-old drops back in grade.