By Ray Hickson
Breeders’ Plate winner Performer is ready to reclaim top billing for this year’s Golden Slipper when he kicks off his campaign for the two-year-old classic at Rosehill on Saturday.
That’s certainly the vibe from the Chris Waller stable as the champion trainer’s leading Slipper hope returns in the Group 3 $150,000 Canonbury Stakes (1100m).
Performer has been prepared for his return with two barrier trial wins and was given a serious test in taking out a 900m heat last week.
“He was a little more settled and relaxed than he was in his first trial so Hughie (Bowman) just wanted to make sure he knew why he was there so he gave him a reminder,’’ Waller’s racing manager Charlie Duckworth said.
“Colts often trial much more aggressively than other horses because they do so well and thrive when they’re not being worked so hard.
“Everything else has been perfect. He’s still unbeaten, whether it be races or trials. So far as we’re all concerned we still think he is the one to beat.’’
Performer had held Golden Slipper favouritism from his debut win until the filly Sunlight won the Magic Millions earlier this month.
He’s now $8 second favourite with TAB.
Performer is given a good test in winning his Rosehill trial on January 22
Duckworth said Performer is a much more furnished product than the one seen at Randwick in late September that was good enough to win the Breeders’ Plate in dominant style.
“He’s taller, stronger and put on a considerable amount of weight,’’ he said.
“He’s a more mature colt. We never tightened the screws at all last preparation, he did it on raw ability and that’s the reason why we didn’t tighten the screws because we had to allow his body to develop and strengthen.
“It gets everyone excited because it’s not in Chris’s methods of training to put them under pressure to win these early races.’’
The Canonbury Stakes has produced three Golden Slipper winning colts in its history with the latest being Vancouver (2015).
Among Performer’s rivals are likely to be small in number - among them $925,000 colt Stratosphere, three-time trial winner Exceltic, his stablemate Dio D’Oro and Godolphin colt Hiemal.
While the colt is Waller’s number one Slipper seed, promising filly Fiesta also begins her preparation on Saturday in the Group 3 $150,000 Widden Stakes (1100m).
Fiesta finished third in the Gimcrack Stakes on debut then ran second to Legislation in the Kirkham Plate on October 21 and will wear blinkers on Saturday.
“She’s very sharp and has worked with Performer,’’ Duckworth said.
“They won’t work as far as the older horses, just sharp work for them, and she seems to be thriving with it. She should be pretty faultless on Saturday.’’
Firsta is currently a $51 Slipper chance with TAB and will face the likes of impressive debut winner Into The Abyss, Secret Lady and Misteed.