By Ray Hickson
At Royal Randwick
It was vintage Gai Waterhouse.
Racing’s First Lady, shortly after Santos made it two from two this prep in the Skyline Stakes at Randwick, stared down the Sky camera and declared “he’s a serious chance in the Slipper - you back him all of you watching’’.
Then she went even further tipping the Sires’ Produce and Champagne Stakes were there for Santos’ taking as well.
“The more he races the better he will be,’’ Waterhouse said.
“Will he get further? Will he ever - triple crown. He’s a very versatile colt and I think there is a lot of improvement.’’
Santos fends off a wall of challengers to win the Skyline Stakes at Randwick
It was Waterhouse’s fourth win in the Group 2 $200,000 Schweppes Skyline Stakes (1200m) following Dance Hero (2004), Manhattan Rain (2009) and Valentia (2014) and, as she so bullishly declared, believes Santos can emulate Dance Hero and take out the Slipper and the two-year-old Triple Crown.
The colt overcame all sorts of pre-race dramas – throwing a shoe in his stall, having to be replated, kicking out at the gate on the way onto the track – but in a show of bravery staved off a wall of challengers to prove to Waterhouse the $3m Golden Slipper, in three weeks, is within reach.
“He more than got the job done, this is a serious colt and I’ll tell you why he’s a serious colt it’s because things were against him,’’ she said.
“I think all those things speak volumes. His times won’t be as good as the other day but his effort was better.’’
Santos actually drifted in the Slipper market, from $9 to $11 with TAB, despite his gritty victory and Waterhouse’s confidence the colt can hand her a seventh win in the two-year-old classic.
Jockey Tim Clark said, aside from the plating issue, he felt Santos wasn’t able to let go in the soft ground and a headwind made things tougher going for those exposed to it.
Punters Intel data showed the last 200m was run as though the youngsters were racing uphill with Santos running 12.76 with only the runner-up Spin faring best clocking 12.55.
“The edge was off him a little bit after a dominant win first-up,’’ Clark said.
“The three weeks leading into the Slipper has to be an ideal break for him and he did a good job.
“He’s not the greatest horse out of the gates but he’s getting better. Considering the circumstances before the mounting yard having to be replated it’s not ideal and he had a kick out going through the tunnel as well.
“Things didn’t go exactly to plan but he had the class. I think he will appreciate a high pressure race.’’
The Skyline was run in 1:11.15 which was 0.19 seconds slower than the fillies in the Sweet Embrace where Victorian filly Seabrook worked her way into Slipper calculations with a strong finishing win.
Trained my Mick Price, Seabrook didn’t make the field for the Blue Diamond and jockey Hugh Bowman said she’s Slipper material every day of the week and she firmed from $51 into $15 with TAB.
“She did it the hard way, I thought I was going to get a nice bit of cover behind Fiesta with didn’t eventuate,’’ Bowman said.
“Off today’s run she will improve a lot from the experience of running here, conditions are testing, she was tough late, she has Slipper written all over her.’’