By Ray Hickson
Favourites Sunlight and Written By will be seeing plenty of each other in the $3.5m Longines Golden Slipper (1200m) at Rosehill Gardens after drawing adjacent barriers for Saturday’s feature.
There were more winners than losers among the favoured runners though Performer (16) and Estijaab (17) face a much tougher task on paper.
And while Sunlight (five) and Written By (four) appear to have the early advantage most talk following the draw was whether the duo will handle the expected wet conditions with rain forecast through the week.
“It’s an unknown but good horses handle most things,’’ Sunlight’s trainer Tony McEvoy said.
“She trialled on a heavy 9 at Cranbourne, it was very heavy, and she handled herself well there but it was a trial.’’
Written By won on heavy ground at his debut at Sandown but the unbeaten colt’s trainer Grahame Begg says he’d prefer Rosehill to be closer to good than heavy.
“We had no inclination before he would handle a heavy track,’’ Begg said.
“I feel he is better suited on top of the ground but he has that experience on a rain affected track.’’
Both Sunlight and Written By are backing up from wins at Rosehill last Saturday and both trainers are confident their charges have come through their runs in fine style.
And the margin between them in TAB betting has closed with Sunlight the $4.20 favourite ahead of Written By ($4.80) with Santos and Performer the only others in single figures at $8.
.@Grahame_Begg is back home in Sydney and trains second favourite and the unbeaten colt Written By. He's drawn beautifully in barrier 4 and @LizzieJelfs caught up with him straight after the draw to talk race tactics. pic.twitter.com/KXHAkVpspx
— Sky Racing (@SkyRacingAU) March 20, 2018
Trainer Gai Waterhouse is seeking her seventh Slipper win with Santos and she saw some symmetry in her colt drawing gate seven.
Santos won the Skyline Stakes at Randwick on March 3 and the last horse to complete the Skyline-Slipper double was Waterhouse’s super youngster Dance Hero in 2004.
Waterhouse said the barrier will allow Santos be in a perfect spot and with her, and co-trainer Adrian Bott's, job done it’s up to the horse.
“He’s a very good colt, exactly what I look for when purchasing colts,’’ she said.
“He’s very like Vancouver and Sebring. Is he good enough? We will know on Saturday but he has an enormous turn of foot and will to win.’’
Jockey Brenton Avdulla hasn’t given up on Reisling Stakes winner Estijaab winning the Slipper despite drawing 17 (which will become 14).
The filly was runner-up to Sunlight in the Silver Slipper before she scrambled home in the Reisling, after which Avdulla said he’d be keen to see her ridden just off the speed.
Whether he has that choice from a wide barrier remains to be seen.
“It’s one of those races where sometimes when you draw well it doesn’t pan out,’’ Avdulla said.
“It might not be a bad thing being out there. She has good gate speed and will be one of the quickest out. I wouldn’t trade her for anything.
“I’m confident Team Hawkes have her ready to go.’’
The last word from the barrier draw goes to Tony McEvoy.
While making a point of not forgetting his other runner Oohood, who drew well in 11, he couldn’t hide his excitement about the prospect of Sunlight becoming the first Magic Millions winning filly to take out the Golden Slipper.
“She’s eaten everything and is bright as a button and for the first time since the Magic Millions I can see a rib,’’ he said.
“I don’t know how happy I look, but I’m bloody happy.’’