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Hawk’s 2015 Golden Slipper Day Preview and Selections

March 21, 2015

Rosehill’s biggest card, Golden Slipper day, is upon us yet again as 16 juveniles battle it out for the world’s richest two-year-old prize.

It looks a strong Golden Slipper this year, backed up by four other top Group 1 races.

The programme is obviously different this year, and it is weird not having the traditional Golden Slipper/BMW double header. However, it still shapes as a terrific day of racing and I think it will be seen as a winner.

In particular, it does look a standalone day of quality, rather than just being a lead-up to The Championships.

I have provided selections for all nine races but have given my extended thoughts on the five Group 1 races.

Best of luck!

Race 1 – GROUP 3 BIRTHDAY CARD STAKES (1200m)

7 – SHAMALIA
1 – MOSSFUN
6 – BROOK ROAD
4 – BOUND FOR EARTH

Race 2 – GROUP 3 EPONA STAKES (1900m)

1 – RISING ROMANCE
7 – ENTERTAINS
9 – ROLE MODEL
5 – TELEPATHIC

Race 3 – LISTED THE SEBRING (1200m)

2 – TAWTEEN
3 – KUMAON
6 – MUSIC MAGNATE
13 – PEEPING

Race 4 – GROUP 1 RANVET STAKES (2000m)

A small field of seven lines up in the Ranvet Stakes, and like many weight-for-age races, this looks like it will be quite the tactical affair with little speed and a number of queries – especially the two international runners.

SILENT ACHIEVER won this race in the final stride last year, reeling in tearaway leader Carlton House, with the likes of It’s A Dundeel and Fiorente well behind her. She’s only won once since, The BMW, but produced arguably her best run when third in the Cox Plate. She has had two good runs to prepare for this, when fifth in the Apollo Stakes and fourth in the Chipping Norton Stakes. In a race with little speed, she should be able to settle just behind likely leader FAST DRAGON, either in the box seat or one-out, one-back, and it would be no shock to see a grinding win similar to what she achieved last year.

CONTRIBUTER – no, not a spelling mistake, with an e – is the favourite, albeit a little easy in early markets, and little wonder after two stellar efforts to win the Apollo Stakes and the Chipping Norton Stakes. This Godolphin import has clearly relished the change in environment and has acclimatised perfectly. He now steps up to 2000m, a trip at which he excelled in the UK and at which he is already a winner in Australia, having won the Coongy Handicap in the spring. He does look the one to beat.

Obviously, DOMINANT is a familiar face to us. It probably pays to forget everything he did prior to the Hong Kong Vase, when he was fourth to Flintshire, as he has typically taken time to find form in his Hong Kong campaigns. His last start third behind Designs On Rome in the Centenary Vase was terrific, even in receipt of 11 pounds from his stablemate. What was most noteworthy from this race’s perspective is that he managed to jump well and race a lot handier than has been his style recently. That may be a positive here, in a race where there does look to be little speed. If he runs up to his third in the Hong Kong Gold Cup last year, when finishing behind the last two Singapore International Cup winners Military Attack and Dan Excel, he’ll be in the mix. That said, it’s probably realistic to expect him to be finding the line well, and I expect he’ll be on a Sydney Cup path after this.

Next best HE’S YOUR MAN.

6 – SILENT ACHIEVER
1 – CONTRIBUTER
2 – DOMINANT
3 – HE’S YOUR MAN

Race 5 – GROUP 1 ROSEHILL GUINEAS (2000m)

Another small field over the 2000m, this time for the three-year-olds, but this race oozes class this year and it looks like it will be one of the better Rosehill Guineas in recent times. Lining up are the Randwick Guineas winner, the Victoria Derby winner, the New Zealand Derby first and second, the Spring Champion first and third…and poor POUNAMU.

This race looks to have more speed than the Ranvet Stakes, with the NZ Derby quinella MONGOLIAN KHAN and VOLKSTOK’N’BARRELL likely to roll forward along with Gai Waterhouse’s Spring Champion winner HAMPTON COURT. The classiest horse on exposed form is HALLOWED CROWN and he can roll forward too, but in an effort to get him to stay a strong 2000m it wouldn’t surprise to see more conservative tactics adopted.

The two Kiwis look to hold the aces here. Mongolian Khan won the New Zealand Derby with a strong staying performance, fighting back after being headed and finding the line very strongly, while Volkstok’n’barrell died on his run after racing up full of gusto at the top of the straight. In simple terms, Mongolian Khan looked the stronger stayer while Volkstok’n’barrell looked the more brilliant conveyance. They return to 2000m here, a similar distance to where they finished first and third respectively in the Avondale Guineas.

The step back in trip may not be so suitable to Mongolian Khan, but he looks to have plenty of upside and just keeps improving. A winner of six of his seven starts, the son of the all-conquering Holy Roman Emperor has met every challenge that has been asked of him and looks a horse capable of making the leap to open-class Group 1 company. He can win this on his way to winning the Australian Derby.

If there’s a fly in the ointment, it could come from Godolphin’s SWEYNESSE. Rated highly enough by Godolphin to test him in the Cox Plate last spring, where he finished a credible eighth to Adelaide when he was running on strongly late, he looks to have furnished into an even nicer horse over the summer. He flew home to just miss in the Hobartville, and was flying again late in the Randwick Guineas – both times behind Hallowed Crown. The concern again is the pace setup, which looks set to play against him, but if they go at a solid clip he has the ability to come over the top late.

Volkstok’n’barrell is another strong contender, and he will probably find the 2000m more to his liking than the 2400m of the New Zealand Derby. Both he and Mongolian Khan demolished their rivals, with third-placed Sound Proposition more than six lengths from the winner. He will race handy and if he gets a break on Mongolian Khan, he may prove hard to run down.

As mentioned above, Hallowed Crown is the class of the race, but it’s hard to see him staying a strong 2000m. By Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense out of Golden Slipper runner-up Crowned Glory, the pedigree suggests that his stamina may be tested here – although, go back far enough and you’ll find Zabeel in the family. Still, he shapes as a brilliant sprinter-miler in the making who could find his way into the placings on class, but I would be far from surprised if this was his last attempt at 2000m.

And when the Victoria Derby winner PREFERMENT doesn’t even rate a mention anywhere…enough said.

3 – MONGOLIAN KHAN
4 – SWEYNESSE
6 – VOLKSTOK’N’BARRELL
1 – HALLOWED CROWN

Race 6 – GROUP 1 THE GALAXY (1100m)

This was the toughest of the five Group 1 races to assess for mine, and I changed my selections numerous times before settling on a top four I was content with.

To show how I’ve fluctuated, I had Challenge Stakes winner MIRACLES OF LIFE on top at one stage, but in the end I’ve left her out, fearing that she might end up in no man’s land – either too wide or too far back – from the poor draw.

It’s a race with plenty of speed, with SWEET IDEA, CHLOE IN PARIS, DEEP FIELD, RUBICK and VA PENSIERO all likely to push forward. Indeed, it is a race that looks to set up perfectly well for Godolphin galloper KNOYDART. A backmarker with a booming turn of foot, he was terrific in the Challenge Stakes when coming from last and just missing out in a photo for third with Rubick. He came from nowhere last autumn to run placings in the Oakleigh Plate and the Newmarket Handicap, and I think this is the sort of race he’s been looking for – a fast run 1100m where he’ll have plenty of time to finish over the top.

If the speed is not as strong as expected, though, I’m expecting a big run from the Waterhouse-trained Sweet Idea. She is likely to be involved in the battle for the speed, if not parking just behind it, but she is as tough as teak and her tenacity will see her in this for a long way. She’s a flying machine fresh, and while the trip might not be ideal for her, she still seems to fly well under the radar. I’m happy to have something small on her too.

Rubick was the most obvious of the beaten runners in the Challenge Stakes when he was tightened for room, lost all momentum but picked up again to finish third. He is drawn to get the softest run of all time, which is good – as long as he can get clear running again in the straight. The major concern for mine is that he may not be able to take advantage of the soft draw – his wins have all come when he has led or sat outside the lead, and so sitting pretty behind them may not be his go. He’s a leading player, though.

Next best are the lightly weighted pair Chloe In Paris and KURO, who both get in well at the weights and look to have plenty of upside, while Miracles of Life remains a hope but the draw has cruelled her chances. I’m happy to take on Deep Field from the wide draw, despite the fact I expect he’ll improve after two somewhat disappointing efforts.

7 – KNOYDART
4 – SWEET IDEA
9 – RUBICK
16 – CHLOE IN PARIS

Race 7 – GROUP 1 GOLDEN SLIPPER (1200m)

It’s the richest two-year-old race in the world, worth A$3.5m, but in reality the Golden Slipper is a hit-and-miss race every year. Sure, there are good horses that emerge from the race every year, but the overall depth of the race varies wildly.

On paper, last year’s race, won by Mossfun, looks pretty poor now. The year before, Overreach’s Golden Slipper was stronger, but still a long way from exceptional. The 2012 Golden Slipper was better than both, although there was a long tail, but Pierro, Snitzerland and Samaready were all legitimate Group One horses.

It’s hard to tell now the strength of this two-year-old crop, but from what we’ve seen so far, it shapes as similar to 2012 – quite a few potential stars at the top, but a long tail below.

The build-up has been intriguing with Gai Waterhouse’s hot favourite, Todman Stakes winner VANCOUVER, set to start from the outside gate. At Rosehill, the hairpin track (from the chute in the middle of the course) ensures it is about 300m or so until the nasty first bend comes up. As with most Golden Slippers, there are a number of speed influences, although perhaps not as many as one would be accustomed to in this scamper. Still, for jockey Tommy Berry, he will either have to commit early and hope that his horse is as superior to the field as some good judges suggest, or he will have to try and ride a pretty race, searching for cover midfield and hoping to come on strongly. He may be the best horse in the race, he may still prove too good, but at his current quote he’s worth taking on.

So who can beat him? I’m hoping that Gai Waterhouse is beaten by…Gai Waterhouse! Racing’s first lady has been known to do it before, and why not here again? I’ve been on the ENGLISH bandwagon for some time, after a late night conversation with my closest friend ended in analysing Kembla Grange replays. Clearly, I lead an enthralling life…

The Newhaven Park filly – the nickname the Boorowa Belle sounds suitable – was described by her trainer during the week as a “naughty girl” who has had quite a few quirks along the way. One thing is not up for debate, though – she has plenty of ability. She was all over the shop at Kembla Grange, missing the start, green as grass, but powered home for an effortless three-and-a-half length win that could easily have been seven lengths.

The day English stood up as a Golden Slipper contender, though, was not her last-start Reisling Stakes win but almost two weeks before, when she won a trial on soft ground on the steeple grass at Randwick. The time was fast – in fact, she went five-tenths of a second quicker than Vancouver. But it was more the manner of her victory, rather than the time. She could not have been under a harder hold, while Vancouver was made to work for his win.

Trials mean very little, of course. The specifics and dynamics of a trial are very different to raceday. And so it was good to see her take it to the big time when she won the Reisling Stakes, beating one-time Golden Slipper favourite OTTOMAN. She still did plenty wrong, but was better behaved than at Kembla and she hit the line nicely.

On times, she’d have to be dismissed – she ran 1.36 seconds slower than Vancouver in the Todman and came home 0.59 slower. But I think she still has plenty of scope and can improve substantially. If she does improve again, she’ll be right in the mix.

She’s drawn perfectly and will jump from gate five, which should give Blake Shinn options depending on how she jumps and how well she relaxes. And that is a huge advantage over her stablemate and many of the other fancied runners in this race.

For mine, the biggest eyecatcher out of the lead-ups was not Vancouver but Godolphin’s EXOSPHERE, who toyed with his rivals in the Skyline Stakes at Warwick Farm. Another who made the step up from a big-margin Kembla victory to Group company, he looks an imposing juvenile and clearly has plenty of ability. He looks to come from a similar mould to his sire Lonhro, and there are shades of Octagonal again, and he will be the one with the last crack at them. In fact, a run similar to Octagonal’s 1995 Golden Slipper effort is on the cards – but hopefully English is playing the spoiler’s role of Flying Spur.

Vancouver goes in for third, and does look one of the main chances after his Todman Stakes romp. He’s yet to put a foot wrong and the comparisons with Pierro are obvious.

Next best is Silver Slipper winner HEADWATER – he was poor behind Vancouver in the Todman Stakes but it always pays to forgive one poor run and his Silver Slipper effort was outstanding – while his stablemate LAKE GENEVA and impressive Flemington winner READY FOR VICTORY look the best of the rest.

8 – ENGLISH
5 – EXOSPHERE
1 – VANCOUVER
2 – HEADWATER

Race 8 – GROUP 1 GEORGE RYDER STAKES (1500m)

A very competitive affair, not the strongest George Ryder ever seen – far from it – but a fascinating race.

Looking at this race straight up, I thought I’d want to be on either the Japanese or the three-year-olds. And after actually delving into the race, with the exception of Godolphin’s Liverpool City Cup winner IT’S SOMEWHAT, my thoughts have remained the same.

We were trackside last time WORLD ACE raced, when he finished his race off well for fourth behind Hong Kong’s superstar Able Friend in the Hong Kong Mile. Nothing was beating Able Friend that day, he was simply supreme, but with better luck World Ace could and probably should have finished second. That effort puts him around the level of a Gold-Fun or a Glorious Days, and both of them would be competitive here. He returned to competition last year after almost two years on the sidelines, having been an impressive three-year-old – he started favourite in the 2012 Japanese Derby but finished fourth. Since then, he has mixed his form, although his Group 2 Yomiuri Milers Cup win was terrific and his effort for fifth in the Yasuda Kinen behind Just A Way commendable.

The query for him is where he will settle. The horse has a tendency to miss the start and Zac Purton, who rode the horse in Hong Kong last start, says he has a few quirks. If he can jump and put himself in a midfield position, I believe the famous Sunday Racing Co colours can land their second Australian Group 1 after Delta Blues’ 2006 Melbourne Cup win.

The Caulfield Guineas winner SHOOTING TO WIN looms as the main danger. Three-year-olds have a top record in this race, with Pierro the most recent three-year-old winner in 2013, and this does look a fairly strong crop. In fact, these same colours were carried to victory in this race by a three-year-old, with Racing To Win taking out the George Ryder in 2006.

Both runs this preparation, Shooting To Win has looked like the winner at some point in the straight but has been swamped both times. Last start, he cantered up the Randwick rise and Blake Shinn looked to be swinging, only for Hallowed Crown and Sweynesse to come over the top. It was far from a poor effort, but it was disappointing given how much horse he looked to have under him. Whether that was fitness blowing out or whether he just has a short sprint that needs to be managed, I’m not entirely sure, but back to 1500m at his third run in, he looks well suited. He shouldn’t be too far away from the speed and will be the one they’ll have to catch.

It’s Somewhat was very impressive winning the Liverpool City Cup and like his stablemate Contributer looks to have acclimatised perfectly in Australia. He was tried as a stayer in the UK, which I’m not completely convinced was his go, and his best performance was over 10 furlongs when third to Mukhadram and Trading Leather in the Eclipse Stakes. His first-up win in Australia over 1300m suggests he may be at his best up to 2000m here and this is a perfect race for him at this time. He’s another who shouldn’t be too far away from the speed, and a similar turn of foot as last start will see him in the mix.

Next best KERMADEC, who should have finished closer in the Australian Guineas, from HOOKED.

3 – WORLD ACE
13 – SHOOTING TO WIN
10 – IT’S SOMEWHAT
14 – KERMADEC

Race 9 – GROUP 3 N E MANION CUP (2400m)

3 – MAYGROVE
7 – PHRASES
9 – GRAND MARSHAL
8 – TREMEC

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