Happy he’s the Doncaster star

Happy Clapper wins the Doncaster Mile at Randwick (Lisa Grimm)

Happy Clapper wins the Doncaster Mile at Randwick (Lisa Grimm)


Winx is the undisputed heavyweight champ … 24 straight wins and it would take a brave person to suggest that #25 won’t be heading her way come Saturday’s $4 million Group One Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

She’s the current benchmark that all horses are judged by.

However, as the hugely popular Happy Clapper proved in the $3 million Group One The Star Doncaster Mile at Royal Randwick on Saturday, second fiddle ain’t a bad spot to sit in the pit.

And what’s not to like about the Clapper? He’s a horse that always gives his best (26 of 34 starts inside the first four) and is trained by one of the good guys in Pat Webster.

The Doncaster was his third victory at the elite level and that tally would more than likely be six if Winx had of been good enough to skip the 2016 Doncaster, the 2017 George Main or the 2018 George Ryder.

Still, Happy Clapper is only the seventh galloper to snare the Epsom/Doncaster double (and yes, Winx is one of the seven), but as Happy Clapper’s breeder/owner, Michael Thomas, is happy – sorry, couldn’t help it – to point out, his 7YO has done something the magic mare has not. He is the only ‘miler’ ever to capture the Epsom, Doncaster AND Group Two Villiers Stakes.

Yet, before we start getting too unhappy about Happy’s position in history, it should be noted the son of Teofilo has currently won $5,945,050 in prizemoney which, by any standard, is a pretty good return for a horse that cost just $13,000 to ‘make’.

Thomas has had a long association with the family, breeding and racing the granddam, Winifred’s Prayer, along with the best of her five winners, the multiple Group winner Thankgodyou’rehere.

He did however sell an Encosta de Lago filly from Winifred’s Prayer called Busking as a yearling. But later decided to buy her back – in foal to Teofilo – for $13,000. Yes, you guessed it, that’s Happy Clapper.

Sadly, Busking died in January 2017, but another of her foals, Not a Single Cent, won the 2018 Group Two VRC Sires’ Produce Stakes at Flemington in March.

Not a Single Cent was sold to Ciaron Maher for $280,000 at the 2017 Gold Coast Magic Millions Yearling Sale, with Thomas deciding to “keep a leg”.

“Look, you can be a glass half-empty or glass half-full in this life and while the Group One record probably reads a whole lot better if there’s no Winx, I take the approach that I could just as easily have not decided to buy back Busking, or retain a share in Not a Single Cent,” Thomas points out.

“There’s a whole lot of things that can go wrong in this industry and you should be grateful when things go right.”

So, where does the Doncaster sit on the Thomas barometer?

“Winning the Epsom was fantastic – Pat’s first Group One winner in 40 years of training – and the Canterbury Stakes was terrific too, but winning the Doncaster is really on a different level altogether,” Thomas enthused.

“I’m a bit superstitious and not a huge believer in fairy tales, but to me the Doncaster is THE major … it’s the race I’ve always wanted to win and he’s finally done it.

“He finished second in 2016 and was runner-up again last year so there was a sense of unfinished business leading into Saturday, but now it’s job done.”

Webster, not surprisingly, was one happy camper too.

“You can have the Slipper and the Cox Plate … the Doncaster has always been the race I wanted to win,” Webster reveals.

“When we were kids – apprentices – we would sit up on the hill and watch the Doncaster. Tobin Bronze’s win in 1967 was the first I saw from the Leger. I grew up at Randwick and spent a bit of time up the road at the Doncaster Hotel too.”

All things being equal, Happy Clapper will take on Winx – again – in Saturday’s Queen Elizabeth and seek to deny the wonder mare an opportunity to equal Black Caviar’s high-water mark.

However, even if it turns out to be Winx-Happy Clapper as opposed to Happy Clapper-Winx, Randwick’s next most popular horse will gallop away with a further $755,000 in stakes.

That second fiddle can play a mean tune!

The Power of Passion