By Ray Hickson
What you see from unbeaten two-year-old Performer in trials is not what you get on race day.
That’s the advice from champion jockey Hugh Bowman ahead of the colt's major Golden Slipper test in the Group 2 $300,000 UNSW Todman Stakes (1200m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
Performer was installed Golden Slipper favourite by TAB after his debut Breeders’ Plate win in the spring and is currently on the third line at $7 largely due to his absence from the track since the Canonbury Stakes on February 3.
The youngster was runner-up in a 1050m trial 24 days later, under noticeable pressure, but Bowman said he saves his best for the big stage.
“They went really slow in his last trial, it was a sprint home, and he likes to get balanced and organised,’’ Bowman said.
“He’s not the sharpest two-year-old I’ve ever ridden so he’s more suited to race conditions. But he always responds and he always builds, he’s a very strong horse.
What did you make of Performer's barrier trial at Randwick on February 27
“The first time I trialled him at Canterbury I was very taken by him and I thought he’d acquit himself well in the Breeders’ Plate and he did. He’s continued to go the right way ever since.’’
Performer is the $2.00 favourite for the Todman, the race in which Capitalist lost his unbeaten record in 2016 before winning the Slipper two weeks later.
Bowman was on the sidelines when Performer won the Canonbury, running 33.05 for the last 600m (Punters Intel) in downing Stratosphere, but said he showed in the trial that he’s coming along well towards his target.
Trainer Chris Waller is yet to win a Golden Slipper – he’s only had the one runner to date – but in Performer he clearly has a huge chance.
“He’s such a laid back colt, he has such a good attitude, he has the ideal barrier, things are falling into place with him,’’ Bowman said.
Performer headlines a very strong book of rides for the World’s Best Jockey and a Group 1 double isn’t beyond him with plum mounts on Clearly Innocent in the $500,000 Bisley Workwear Canterbury Stakes (1300m) and D’Argento in the $1m Randwick Guineas (1600m).
Clearly Innocent had a hard luck story to tell when he resumed in the Southern Cross Stakes (1200m) on February 17 and Bowman said he’s perfectly placed to record a second Group 1 win.
“I think back to his preparation last year which culminated in the Group 1 in Brisbane and he’s a very good horse,’’ he said.
“The 1200m is a bit short for him against the level he’s racing against now, that extra 100m allows him to get into his rhythm.
“I think seven furlongs is his optimum distance and a bit of cut in the ground is only going to help.’’
Bowman is chasing his second Randwick Guineas win, following Hallowed Crown in 2015, on board D’Argento and he’s excited to see the grey extend to the Randwick mile after an eye-catching third in the Hobartville Stakes (1400m).
“He’s a smart horse, I’ve always had a lot of time for him and he’s progressed through his grades well,’’ he said.
“I think Kementari has drawn to get a lovely run but I question him at a strong mile. I don’t think he will be running 2000m whereas my horse will but he’s certainly the benchmark.’’
Kementari was the $2.60 TAB favourite on Thursday afternoon with D’Argento second elect at $5.
Punters Intel data reveals D’Argento ran 33.55 for his last 600m in defeat in the Hobartville and Bowman said he could make a case that the colt should be unbeaten.
“I was concerned about how keen he was in the trial so I was a bit reluctant to make too much use of him early which probably cost him,’’ he said.
“His run was excellent and the mile will suit him much better than the 1400m.’’
Ex-Kiwi stayer Patrick Erin is one horse Bowman is keen to test out under race conditions after being rapt with his only trial since joining the Waller yard.
The six-year-old, a $12 chance with TAB in the Listed $125,000 Randwick City Stakes (2000m) ran fourth in the Wellington Cup over the two miles back in January before crossing the Tasman.
“He gave me a hell of a feel in the trial,’’ Bowman said.
“He might find 2000m a bit short but he will know a bit more after the race. I expect him to run really well.’’