House Of Fun set for dirt debut under new rider Clipperton

Jockey Sam Clipperton hopes that a late pick-up ride can lead to gold when he partners House Of Fun in the Class 2 Nathan Handicap (1200m) on the Sha Tin all-weather track on Sunday..

John Size’s House Of Fun, a five-time victor last term, has not won in four starts this season, but was arguably unlucky not to break through last Sunday (26 November) under Joao Moreira. There, he was baulked for a run at a crucial stage before charging home to finish second to stablemate Premiere over the straight 1000m.

As a result, he backs up quickly into Sunday’s Class 2, with Clipperton taking his first ride aboard House Of Fun on raceday.

“Joao was already committed elsewhere, so I was lucky enough to pick up the ride when entries came out,” Clipperton said at Sha Tin on Friday morning (1 December). “I think he probably should have won last weekend, but it has worked out well otherwise – he probably wouldn’t have lined up on Sunday if he had won, that’s for sure.

“He’s obviously going very well, so if he gets a reasonable run from the awkward barrier, he should be in the finish.”

House Of Fun (128lb) makes his dirt debut at what is the son of Starcraft’s 21st start. His sire has had only one dirt winner from his 23 Hong Kong runners.

However, House Of Fun has won six of his 10 barrier trials on dirt, including one with Clipperton in the saddle in July. That day, he raced clear to hit the wire three and a half lengths clear of his rivals.

“He won his trial comfortably for me, and he gave me every indication that he was fine on the surface,” the Australian rider said. “It’s probably not even by design that he hasn’t run on the dirt, it’s just how it has fallen into place. Now he gets his chance, and I’m excited to jump aboard.”

Moreira rides Caspar Fownes’ Limitless (125lb), who also makes his dirt debut. Others in the 12-runner line-up include Chris So-trained pair Fabulous One (133lb) and Classic Emperor (123lb), the latter a six and three-quarter length winner at his first dirt run last start, while course and distance winners Pablosky (121lb), California Whip (120lb), Fight Hero (115lb) and Perpetual Treasure (114lb) also create interest.

The Class 2 Nathan Handicap is scheduled as the ninth of 10 races.

House Of Fun, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club

Sunday’s programme sees some of Hong Kong’s young guns come to the fore as they look to continue their rise through the grades.

In the seventh, the Class 3 Middle Handicap (1000m), Size’s unbeaten grey speedster Hot King Prawn lines up for his fourth career start. The Denman gelding has won his three races over the straight 1000m by two and a quarter lengths, five and three quarter lengths and two and a quarter lengths, the last of those his first attempt against open company.
He is now saddled with 130 pounds against an open Class 3 field, but jockey Zac Purton drew heart from drawing gate 14 – the stands-side barrier – over the straight course.

“Whenever we have a straight race, it’s always nice to be able to draw the outside,” Purton said, “especially on a horse like him who has got plenty of speed. He should just get out and lead from there, and it gives him his chance to try and win another one.

“I think his last start showed that he has taken a step forward this season, and it was the first time he was put under pressure too. I think he responded well to that, he showed that he has a bit of a kick there. Quite often, when they just canter up on the bridle all the time, something puts them under pressure and they don’t find, so it was good to see him give that kick.”

Hot King Prawn is one of four three-year-olds in the Class 3 sprint. Italian Listed winner Biz Power (133lb) and Australian Listed winner God Of Dragon (133lb), previously named Pardoe, both make their Hong Kong debuts, while bottom-weighted Sunshine Universe (113lb) completes the quartet.

Earlier, Sparkling Dragon (133lb) contests the Class 4 Granville Handicap (1400m), restricted to three-year-olds, after making a winning debut over 1200m under Clipperton on 11 November.

“He’s come out of it well, he just had a quiet week afterwards and then started up his work again a couple of weeks back,” said trainer Michael Freedman. “He put in a nice piece of work here last Saturday and then worked on his own on Wednesday, I was happy and my assistant Carol (Yu), who rode him, was happy too.

“I think he’s just made natural improvement from the racing experience. The 1400m shouldn’t be an issue for him. He led the other day from the wide gate, but that was more a matter of circumstances. He certainly doesn’t have to lead and I’ll leave it to Sam.”

Sunday’s 10-race action commences with the Class 5 Ashley Handicap (1200m) at 1pm and concludes with the Class 3 Salisbury Handicap (1400m) at 5.45pm.