By Ray Hickson
For champion trainer Chris Waller, the $3.5m Longines Golden Slipper is something of a Holy Grail.
It’s not that he’s been chasing it his entire training career – he’s only had one runner – but it’s an elusive prize that he now feels he has the ammunition to pursue.
Waller is known as a master of training stayers, he trains the best racehorse in the world in Winx and while he concedes he’s something of a novice with the juveniles he’s picking it up quickly.
“Not being known as an early two-year-old trainer we’ve missed out on a lot of horses but hopefully that will change this year and we can get more high profile horses,’’ Waller said.
“I see the importance because all the breeders think it’s the be all and end all for the high-priced yearlings which I respect.
Performer's trial in blinkers at Randwick on March 15
“If you’re not getting those horses into the stable you’re left a little bit light when it comes to three-year-old racing.’’
That renewed focus can be seen in Waller being represented by Performer and Fiesta in Saturday’s feature at Rosehill Gardens.
Jade Marauder is Waller’s only Slipper runner to date – she ran 15th in 2012 – but he says Performer and Fiesta have proven themselves all season to be potential Slipper winners.
Performer won the Breeders’ Plate back on September 30 – the last three colts to win the Slipper (Capitalist, Vancouver, Pierro) have also won that race – while Fiesta was placed in the Gimcrack Stakes on the same day.
“They were there from the first day of the season and what I’ve learned from that is it gives us a good foundation to work with as a later autumn two-year-old,’’ he said.
“So they’ve had proper spells and I’ve still given them time. Everyone knows we like to give our horses a bit more time but these two have just been readymade two-year-olds.’’
Performer’s Slipper prospects appeared to go south when he dislodged jockey Hugh Bowman inside the 200m of the Todman Stakes at Randwick on March 10.
Waller was asked the question whether he thought Performer would have won the Todman and he admits to having his doubts but isn’t placing too much emphasis on the incident.
Punters Intel data showed Performer was winding up in the Todman, running 11.33 from the 600-400m and 11.04 from the 400-200m.
The colt has since trialled in blinkers and pleased Waller with his progress.
“I thought he was struggling to win last start but Hugh assures me he was just hitting top stride,’’ Waller said.
“It’s a good lead up race to the Slipper but not always the winner goes on to win the Slipper.
“I’m not putting any emphasis on it apart from the fact I want to make sure he doesn’t do it again. With the blinkers on that will sort him out.
“There’s no concern from Hugh or us in relation to the horse. It was a freak accident. It’s been far from perfect but the horse looks very fit.’’
Although there’s plenty of focus on Performer, Waller said there’s every reason to think Fiesta can be in the Slipper finish come Saturday.
The filly was runner-up to Seabrook in the Sweet Embrace Stakes after a wide run and Waller says she should not be underestimated.
“I don’t think we should be forgetting Fiesta, she has done nothing wrong,’’ he said.
“You could make a case she should have won the Gimcrack and she had no luck whatsoever last start trapped wide all the way.’’
TAB is keeping Performer on the safe side at $8 and if Waller’s comments are correct Fiesta, to be ridden by Kerrin McEvoy, could be over the odds as a $23 chance despite both drawing awkward barriers.