By Ray Hickson
There’s a sea of the Godolphin blue on show in Saturday’s Golden Slipper but head trainer James Cummings doesn’t take any of it for granted.
Cummings has five two-year-olds (one colt and four filles) plus an emergency in the 16 horse field – a huge achievement even allowing for the 152 youngsters available to him.
Consider this – a year ago, again with large numbers at his disposal, Cummings was watching from the sidelines with no runners in the world’s richest two-year-old race.
“Some years it’s going to be easier than others,’’ Cummings said.
“I accept that very early on, I won’t be surprised when one year we are stronger or weaker than the next.
“Horse racing is a fickle beast and acceptance is a more blissful state of being than the alternative.’’
Fickle is right – just a few weeks ago Cummings held what many thought to be the ace card in long time favourite Tassort but he’s in the paddock none the wiser as his stablemates chase the big prize.
Results so far this season show it's been a red-letter year for Cummings with 20 two-year-old race wins including 10 at stakes level. Overall, his youngsters have finished in the top three on 50 occasions from 87 starts.
Spare a thought for race caller Darren Flindell as he sifts through the rainbow of caps accompanying the Godolphin blue in about 72 seconds of race time.
They are Microphone (blue cap), Lyre (trained by Anthony Freedman, white), Tenley (red), Pin Sec (black), Kiamichi (yellow), Exhilarates (green) and if Bivouac gains a start he’ll wear pink.
The Cummings horde have all earned their place in the $3.5m Longines Golden Slipper Stakes (1200m) at Rosehill with feature race wins.
Microphone took out the Skyline Stakes, Tenley won the Reisling, Pin Sec a Black Opal, Kiamichi the Magic Night and Exhiliarates gave Godolphin its first Magic Millions.
“We are very fortunate at the moment to have a precocious group of young horses,’’ Cummings said.
“The efforts and the passion, and the meticulous hard work, that has gone into having each and every one of these horses come through and demonstrate glimpses of their true potential to get to this point so far - that has been quite incredible to be a part of.
“We aren’t getting ahead of ourselves. We’ve lived a pretty normal week and it’s important to treat it like any race.
“You know what, it’s the hardest two-year-old race to win and we’d be applauding anyone that is able to do it. If it happens to be us then we’ll be very gracious.’’
Here’s how James Cummings described each of his Slipper hopefuls:
Microphone ($6.50 TAB): “He’s a strong individual and he’s capable of absorbing a fast speed and still sprinting to the line. He comes into this on fresh legs with three weeks from the Skyline.’’
Tenley ($6): “She has the record of a filly that belies her racing pattern. It says a lot about her booming finish to have a three-nil scoreline coming into the Slipper. You have to give her credit for the way she can produce in the final furlong under pressure.’’
Pin Sec ($15): “The Black Opal win was a slashing victory and her debut win interestingly was far different given she didn’t have run of the race advantages. She was forced to show incredible determination and perseverance to claim them in the latter stages. For that reason she’s a bit more experienced than her record shows. With a wet track likely, we like the fact that she is a Lonhro filly from a daughter of Commands which has been shown to be a successful formula for rain affected going.”
Kiamichi ($41): “From the vantage point of the trainer’s hut on Tuesday morning I called out to Lauren, who rides her, wanting to know how she felt and Lauren struggled to stay in the saddle while Kiamichi squealed her head off. She is very well. She has a lot of early pace and we won’t deny her that if she begins well.’’
Exhilarates ($21): “She was there to run well but definitely not at her best so fresh since the Magic Millions. We love the way she’s gone ahead. She’s already proven to be able to perform on the big stage when that intense pressure comes on.”
Bivouac ($61): “His form line is undeniably very good and he just looks like wanting to be ridden a little bit cuter than he was last time to be able to be at his competitive best with these horses. He’s a colt who will revel in the conditions and he could be forgiven for fading on his run last time after being wide throughout.”