"I've just won the Golden Slipper!" exclaimed trainer Gary Portelli after She Will Reign took out the 2017 edition of the world's richest race for two-year-olds. The early favourite - right back to when markets opened in January, it is hard to believe that the filly started at $9 with UBET.
Steered by Melbourne-based jockey Ben Melham, She Will Reign powered through the heavy Rosehill surface to deliver an $(Aus)2 million pay packet for her connections. Frolic ($7) was a very game second having raced the 1200-metre trip closest to the rails while Tulip ($7.50) claimed third placing on protest over Menari ($29). It was one of those great mounting yard scenes as the very large group of small-time owners were delirious with joy as their filly bolted in with the victory.
The Slipper might have been the feature race but Winx was by far the main attraction and she delivered in spades yet again. The incessant rain that has battered Sydney saw the track rated a Heavy 10, the softest rating possible, but it made no difference to the wonder mare as shed notched her 16th successive win. The Group 1 George Ryder Stakes (1500m) was pegged as the long awaited clash of Winx ($1.26) with the world's highest rated sprinter, Chautauqua ($9). Neither he nor recent Group 1 dominator Le Romain ($10) was any match for the mare who is taking the racing world by storm, literally.
— Sky Racing (@SkyRacingAU) March 18, 2017
This week's ESPN featured horse, Gingernuts ($6.50), was another who was so comfortable in the conditions in winning the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m). Drawing away to the line under topline Kiwi jockey Opie Bosson, it is hard to believe the gelding wasn't yet nominated for the Australian Derby. Co-trainer Jamie Edwards agreed that it was time to pay up. As predicted, the large ownership group wearing their orange "G-Nuts" caps was ecstatic. The New Zealand Derby-Rosehill Guineas winner firmed into $3.70 favourite for the Australian edition on April 8.
The father-son training pair of Peter & Paul Snowden achieved a Group 1 quinella in The Galaxy (1100m) as Russian Revolution ($3.20) wrestled the lead from stablemate Redzel ($9) on the line. Now with five wins in six starts, the three-year-old Russian Revolution adds this Group 1 to a win at Group 2 and Group 3 levels and now becomes a very attractive stallion prospect.
Our Ivanhowe ($8) hadn't started since finishing 17th in the Melbourne Cup, but first-up in the Group 1 Ranvet Stakes (2000m) proved to be just to his liking as the Lee & Anthony Freedman-trained seven-year-old strode away for a three length win over $2.90 favourite Hartnell. The former German import notched another win at the highest level in Australia after taking out the Doomben Cup (2000m) in May and currently sits at $31 for the Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) and $12 for the Sydney Cup (3200m) with UBET.
The final feature race of the Melbourne carnival saw Flemington specialist Palatino ($5.50) romp away with the Group 2 Blamey Stakes (1600m). "Today he did everything absolutely perfectly, he's a really good horse," trainer Darren Weir said. With four wins in seven starts at the track - two of which came over the 1600 metres - Palentino easily dealt with stablemate Tosen Stardom ($1.70) in second.
Winx creates a new high: The 13,500-strong crowd braved the inclement weather and they were well rewarded. It isn't just that Winx reached her own new high of 16 wins straight, her 20th overall, and cracked the $10 million mark in prizemoney, but it is the way she did it on the wettest surface she has met to date. Beating the likes of Le Romain and Chautauqua by more than seven lengths, plus the way she accelerated with such ease in the heavy going; the crowd will bring the house at Randwick in her main goal -- the Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) on April 8. Feel like backing her for that? She's now $1.20 with UBET.
Protest Upheld: The day got off to a dramatic start with stewards upholding a an objection by second-placed Craig Williams aboard the Weir-trained Big Duke ($4) against first-past-the-post Our Century ($3.10 favourite) with Ben Melham in the saddle. The latter did look to shift out on Big Duke in the closing stages and the stewards agreed that it was enough to alter the placings. UBET now rate Big Duke as an $8 chance for the Sydney Cup on April 8.
The protest result also gave Weir his first winner in Sydney. Hard to believe, isn't it? He probably would have preferred it to be a little easier earned than it was, but he's broken the duck nonetheless.
Regan Bayliss: How well is this young jockey going? After winning the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap at Flemington the previous Saturday, then the Group 2 Adelaide Cup two days later, he the steered the Hayes, Hayes & Dabernig-trained Derryn ($8.50) to victory in the Listed Darby Munro Stakes (1200m) at Rosehill. The 'when you're hot...' line is certainly apt for this guy at the moment.
Many succumb to wet track: At least half of the jockeys on defeated runners in the Slipper said that their mounts disliked the heavy surface. It is understandable for many of the young horses but by no means is it a reflection on the Rosehill track staff. With all of the rain that had fallen over the weeks preceding, they did an excellent job in presenting a track like they did, let alone having it in a state for the meeting to have gone ahead.
Raiment: It wasn't just that the Godolphin-owned Raiment ($4.80) won the Birthday Card Stakes (1200m); it was that the way in which she did it. Reveling in the heavy conditions under Craig Williams and winning by more than three lengths, trainer John O'Shea was naturally pleased with the performance. Raiment's next port of call will be Randwick where wet conditions should be to her liking should Sydney's big wet continue.
Frolic: Outside of the winner, Frolic's performance along the rails had trainers of other horses in later races thinking the inside part of the track mightn't be a bad place to be. Either way, this filly's second placing in the Slipper had jockey Tommy Berry commenting she is the perfect horse for the Group 1 Champagne Stakes (1600m) at Randwick.
Garrard: The headline action might have been at Rosehill, but this one from Flemington is worth keeping an eye on. Finishing second at $5 behind Shoals ($2.70) in the Thoroughbred Breeders Stakes (1200m), this two year-old may be looking for further. He is already building a nice record with two wins and two minor placings in four starts.
Inference: He might have started the $2.90 favourite, but there was nothing wrong with the Randwick Guineas (1600m) winner's run in the Rosehill Guineas on a similarly wet surface and still might be worth keeping in mind for the Derby in a fortnight.
Hartnell: "He was beaten by the ground," said jockey William Buick after Hartnell's second placing behind Our Ivanhowe. Although Hartnell did give the leaders a big start, Buick was convinced that wet tracks aren't for Hartnell.
Chautauqua: "He's a sprinter," were the words of co-trainer Wayne Hawkes to ESPN immediately after Chautauqua's failure (albeit behind Winx). With those words it looks unlikely that we will see Chautauqua in anything further anymore.
Tosen Stardom: After being narrowly beaten by Black Heart Bart in the Group 1 Futurity Stales (1400m) last start, much was expected of this former Japanese galloper in the Blamey Stakes. The six-year-old failed to show the same tenacity to the line this time but as Weir said post-race: "I certainly wouldn't be dropping off him. He got a lot more to offer." Tosen Stardom now heads to Sydney for the Doncaster Mile on April 1 and is rated a $20 chance.