Trainers, experts weigh in on how to win the Golden Slipper

To borrow a famous Winston Churchill phrase, the Golden Slipper is a “riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.”

The race creates endless debate and detailed analysis for months, virtually from the moment the two-year-olds step out for the first time at the pre-season barrier trials – and there are the theories, so many theories.

Like the Slipper winner needs to have raced before Christmas, it has to have had a lead-up run on the Rosehill track, must have had at least three career starts, winners of the Blue Diamond, Magic Millions and Black Opal usually struggle, a good colt will always beat a good filly – the list is endless.

Bruce McAvaney, the voice of Australian sport and the host of Channel 7’s racing coverage, says what makes the Golden Slipper such a great race is the “complex way of getting a horse qualified”.

“There is the combination of the fragility of the two-year-old and all the options to earn enough prizemoney to get to the Golden Slipper,’’ McAvaney said.

“It’s such a conundrum and makes the race so exciting in so many ways.’’

Which brings us to the final Golden Slipper qualifiers, the Pago Pago Stakes and Magic Night Stakes at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday.

Of the 25 two-year-olds entered for the two races, only Ingratiating (Pago Pago) and Arcaded (Magic Night) are assured of starts in the Golden Slipper next week.

For the rest, this really is the “Last Chance Stakes”. It’s a win and you’re in situation.

But McAvaney pointed out that Golden Slipper history suggests the winner of the world’s richest two-year-old race next week will be at home in his or her box on Saturday.

“We did have Kiamichi win the Magic Night and then back up a week later to win the Golden Slipper two years ago so that one week back-up can sometimes work, James Cummings is aware of that, Bart used it in the past,’’ he said.

“But we always feel like the Todman Stakes and Reisling Stakes two weeks out are the key races although, when you look at the numbers, there is not much difference with the Skyline Stakes. The Silver Slipper is another good guide.

“There are markers along the way but no definite answer. It’s a floating thing that changes and it depends on a horse’s constitution.’’

Glistening (left) holds off Swift Witness in the Reisling Stakes last week. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Michael Freedman, who trains in partnership with his brother Richard, already has Stay Inside and Glistening qualified for the Golden Slipper and is hoping Tiger Of Malay can secure a start in the big race by winning the Pago Pago Stakes.

Freedman, who was working with elder brother Lee when the stable won four successive Golden Slippers with Bint Marscay (1993), Danzero (1994), Flying Spur (1995) and Merlene (1996), has his own theory about the big race.

“I just think the face of the Golden Slipper is changing a bit,’’ Freedman said.

“I haven’t done the statistics to back this up but I think the old theory that a two-year-old needs to have a run before Christmas is a self-fulfilling prophecy more than anything.

“If you look at the Slipper market, there are quite a few that didn’t kick off before the New Year.

“I might end up with egg on my face and the Slipper winner may well have had a race before Christmas but I’m not quite so sure it is as relevant these days as years gone by.

“We had a filly Frolic nearly win the Golden Slipper (second to She Will Reign in 2017) and she only had her first start at Newcastle in January. Estijaab (2018) won the Slipper and she started racing in January.’’

Gai Waterhouse has trained a record seven Golden Slipper winners – Farnan (2020), Vancouver (2015), Overreach (2013), Pierro (2012), Sebring (2008), Dance Hero (2005) and Ha Ha (2001) – and is adamant those two-year-olds that been through a race preparation before have a decided advantage in the big race.

Each of her Golden Slipper winners raced before Christmas with the exception of Sebring but his juvenile season was impacted by the equine influenza outbreak which shut down Sydney racing for nearly four months in late 2007.

Waterhouse, who trains in partnership with Adrian Bott these days, has the promising filly Swift Witness, runner-up in the Reisling last week, as a borderline Golden Slipper entry and unbeaten Converge lines up in the Pago Pago Stakes on Saturday.

Tiger Of Malay needs to win the Pago Pago Stakes impressively on Saturday to convince connections to pay the late entry fee for the Golden Slipper. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Both Swift Witness and Converge comply with the Waterhouse Slipper theory of having an initial race campaign before January.

“I think it is so important for a two-year-old to have raced late last year and then into the summer,’’ Waterhouse said.

“It’s one of the things in the filly’s favour (Swift Witness). Having that initial preparation helps them so much, it is so vital.’’

James Harron was a part-owner of the brilliant Capitalist, winner of the 2015 Golden Slipper. He is another firm believer in the pre-Christmas Slipper theory.

“It does make a lot of sense to have a two-year-old running or winning before the end of December,’’ Harron said.

“They have had that concussion on their shins and that first preparation toughens them up. They also get the chance to have a break before autumn which is critical.’’

Harron looked unlikely to be represented in the Golden Slipper until last weekend – and ended up with two runners after Glistening won the Reisling Stakes and Kalashnikov took out the Black Opal Stakes in Canberra.

But Glistening is going to have to defy Harron’s pre-Christmas Slipper theory and Kalashnikov has to overcome the Black Opal Slipper hoodoo as no horse has won both races since Catbird became the first in 1999.

“Kalashnikov shows that there are many different paths into the Golden Slipper,’’ Harron said.

“He had the two starts during spring then had a nice break which was a great benefit to him.

“After having no luck first-up, he went to Gosford to win his maiden against the older horses and then he won the Black Opal.

“What Kalashnikov and Glistening have going for them is that they keep improving with every start.’’

Form guru Gary Crispe from Racing And Sports agreed that sorting out the winner of the Golden Slipper is “not a simple task.’’

“But a look at the past decade shows that the winners have, for the most part, been right under our noses,’’ Crispe said.

“The last 10 winners had finished first or second in a recognised Slipper trial. Nine of those past 10 have come through the Todman or the Reisling, well established as the premier Slipper trials.

“Of course, it is the horses that make the Todman and the Reisling, not the other way around. Only Kiamichi (who came via the Magic Night to win a heavy track Slipper in 2019) has won the Slipper with a Timeform rating below 115 before the Slipper in the last 10 years.

“Last Saturday’s Reisling Stakes winner fell a long way short of that mark, but the Todman was up to standard and so Anamoe and Profiteer, first and second in that Todman, profile as the most likely winners of the Golden Slipper based on recent history.

“Anamoe won the Todman via a placing in the Blue Diamond, a race that hasn’t produced a Golden Slipper winner since Sepoy did the double 10 years ago but looking beyond just winners shows the Blue Diamond in a better light.

“Blue Diamond runners have been in the placings in the Slipper in nine of the past 10 years and in Artorius the Diamond has another very credible contender. He looks set to enter the Slipper as the highest rated runner.’’

Kalashnikov has to overcome the Black Opal Slipper hoodoo. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Michael Freedman said Glistening has pulled up well after her win in the Reisling Stakes last week as has Stay Inside, who ran an unlucky fourth in the Todman Stakes.

“Glistening’s owners are very excited and looking forward to next week,’’ Freedman said.

“Things didn’t go to plan for Stay Inside last week but he’s still heading to the Golden Slipper, he is the right sort of horse if he gets some luck in the run.’’

The Freedman brothers are trying to buck convention and to get a third horse in to the Golden Slipper as Tiger Of Malay is not even nominated for next week’s big race.

Tiger Of Malay must win the Pago Pago impressively to convince connections to pay the $150,000 late entry fee to get into next week’s race.

Since the Golden Slipper was first run in 1957, the only late entries to win the race were Calaway Gal (2002) and Pago Pago (1963).

“If Tiger Of Malay was able to win the Pago Pago he most likely will back up a week later,’’ Freedman said. “If he wasn’t to win and run well, we will focus on the Sires.

“He will wear blinkers (tomorrow). I’ve been working him in them and he’s going well.’’

Toy Show, winner of the 1975 Golden Slipper, only made her race debut 35 days before the big race. She won a Canterbury midweek race and then had her second start in the Magic Night Stakes to qualify for the Slipper.

The brilliant filly also holds the record as the least experienced Golden Slipper winner, a point not lost on McAvaney.

“Another factor is the number or races a two-year-old has going into the Golden Slipper,’’ McAvaney said.

“Anamoe, who won the Todman Stakes, has been busy, Profiteer (second), Home Affairs (third) and Stay Inside (fourth) not so.

“The other factor to consider is that the Todman was a mini ‘Grand Final’. I felt the race was inconclusive although the top four placegetters did their chances no harm.

“Then there is the Blue Diamond winner, Artorius. I like the fact he is not having another run and goes four weeks into the Golden Slipper. When the Blue Diamond was six weeks before the Slipper, it was hard to do both.

“But that is what makes the Golden Slipper so fascinating – there is no definite blueprint to winning the race.’’

Originally published asIs history against last chance Slipper hopefuls?

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