Australian jockey Sam Clipperton hopes to begin his path to redemption when he takes the plumb ride on Hong Kong Derby winner Ping Hai Star on Monday after falling agonisingly short of Group One success last year.
The 24-year-old had a case of “so close, but yet so far” last season, running second in three Group One races as well as recording a third placing but failing to breakthrough for a win.
While Clipperton takes the Ping Hai Star ride in the Group Three Celebration Cup (1,400m), he is hopeful a strong performance will see master trainer John Size retain his services for future races with the departure of regular jockey Joao Moreira.
“He certainly needs no introduction, he’s done it all, he’s a star horse and I am very excited to be riding him,” he said.
Clipperton is the first to admit “it’s been a bit of a slog” finding a rhythm this season, but is hopeful the Ping Hai Star ride can kick-start his 2018-19 campaign after he was able to ride his first winner at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.
“I missed the first two meetings due to suspension so it’s been a bit slow but it felt good to cross the line first,” he said.
Under handicap conditions, Ping Hai Star will carry 123 pounds compared to the 133 that last year’s winner Beauty Generation will be forced to lug as the top weight.
Despite putting in an impressive Derby performance at 2,000m, both Clipperton and Size are of the opinion that the five-year-old has untapped potential over different distances.
“You could say 1,400m is probably a bit short for him but before the Derby he was only winning over 1,400,” Clipperton said.
“He is very well weighted against those other big Group One horses with only 123 on his back. He’s had the one trial, a nice trial at Happy Valley. He will be sure to improve after the run but I think his class can naturally have him running a nice race on Monday.”
Such is the power of Ping Hai Star, Clipperton said it was a difficult task trying to pull up the horse during track work and barrier trials, who is frequently seen powering on past his required work out.
“I think that is one of the horse’s characteristics, he just likes what he does, he likes to keep going,” he said.
“It was the same in the jumpout, he had one down the back straight and I was struggling to pull him up. He is just such an athlete of a horse, very clean winded and really uses himself very well, he is very efficient and certainly wastes no energy.”
Size said he expects Ping Hai Star to drop out to last position in the race, behind what he hopes is a quick enough speed to allow him to run on.
“There’s always plenty of speed on in the 1,400m races at Sha Tin,” he said. “He doesn’t need to get a position, he will drop out the back and run home. He does have a distance issue, so its about whether he can pick them up.”
Clipperton will come to the races with his strongest book yet this season, taking on six rides, five of which are for Size.