By Julieanne Horsman
Mapping out each racehorse’s retirement plan is an important responsibility of every trainer, but when the horse is a three-time Group 1 winner who has been a stable favourite for more than seven years, the process becomes a lot more challenging. Trainer Pat Webster called time on Happy Clapper’s racing career in April 2020 with a record of 12 wins, 18 places and earnings of more than $7million. There was no shortage of people eager to adopt the champion gelding, but Pat and owner Michael Thomas wanted to be certain he would have a wonderful home for the rest of his life, so they decided to retire him into the care of Racing NSW’s equine welfare and rehoming division, Team Thoroughbred NSW.
“We considered a few options but settled on Team Thoroughbred NSW because we knew he would be looked after and loved forever,” Mr Webster said. “He’s got his own place in the history books as the only horse to have ever won The Doncaster, The Epsom and The Villiers and he deserves to be celebrated.”
Team Thoroughbred NSW provides a safety net for retired NSW racehorses and those who did not make the track. If they do not have a quality home to go to at any point in their lives, regardless of performance, they can be given to Team Thoroughbred NSW to be cared for, retrained and rehomed. However, unlike most of the horses at Team Thoroughbred NSW’s farms, Happy Clapper is not available for adoption. Instead, he has been given an important role as an ambassador for life after racing, and on day one of The Star Championships he completed his first major assignment.
Looking every bit the champion the public had come to know and love, Happy Clapper stepped out into the Theatre Of The Horse at Royal Randwick ahead of the 2021 Doncaster field. Fans filled every space, cheering and snapping photographs and videos of the people’s horse. There was a touch of déjà vu about Happy Clapper’s presence, with the gelding having paraded around the same circuit ahead of the 2018 Doncaster – a race he went on to win by two lengths. When it was time, Happy Clapper led the 20 Doncaster runners into the tunnel, under the grandstand and out onto the course proper. Despite it being his first trip back to Randwick since his final race, Happy Clapper was well behaved and lapped up the attention.
While former Trainer Pat Webster would have loved to have been there for the occasion, he had to settle for watching it on television from Newcastle Racecourse. Now retired from the training ranks, he continues to work in the industry as Racing NSW’s Jockey Coach and Mentor, Drug And Alcohol Counsellor and Racing Mates Ambassador.
“That’s my thrill now,” Pat said. “Seeing the apprentice jockeys perform well, especially if they have had to overcome challenges to get there. I lost the drive to keep training after Happy Clapper retired. When he was in the stable it was like flying to work on a magic carpet. Once he was gone, it was like driving a b-double in peak hour.
“Happy Clapper took us on an incredible journey and he will always hold a special place in my heart. It filled me with pride to see him looking 10/10 as he led the Doncaster field out. I’m so glad the public can continue to appreciate him.”
These days Happy Clapper is enjoying a much slower paced life at Bart’s Farm, a stunning 137-acre facility on the banks of the Nepean River at Castlereagh, designed and formerly owned by the legendary Bart Cummings. He lives with close to 100 other Thoroughbreds, including his best friend, dual TAB Everest winner, Redzel. Every morning they are brought into the barn to have breakfast before a light workout either in the round yard or on the treadmill. They are then shampooed, dried and returned to their paddock to enjoy the sun. Team Thoroughbred NSW Stablehand, Clare Edlund, is their main carer and travels with them wherever they go.
“Once in a blue moon you find a horse that you just click with and they make a positive impact on your day every day,” Miss Edlund said. “I’m extremely lucky I have two horses that do that for me. They are complete opposites but complement each other so well and are my yin and yang.”
Both Happy Clapper and Redzel fans can looking forward to seeing them at the races again during Spring, as well as at other community events.
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