By Ray Hickson
Chris Waller hasn’t won a Golden Slipper – yet – but the champion trainer leaves no doubt that it’s an important race not only to him but to any trainer.
Waller has his largest Slipper representation this year with three colts – Shaquero (Kerrin McEvoy), Home Affairs (James McDonald) and O’President (Glen Boss) - since his first runner in 2012.
Given his dominance of Sydney racing in the last decade you wouldn’t believe that he’s only had five runners prior to now and his best finishing position was Hungry Heart's fifth last year.
“It’s a very important race and it is close to my heart,’’ Waller said.
“You’ve seen me in tears after winning BMW’s for the simple reason that it is here (at Rosehill).
“I’ve been in the fortunate position where I haven’t had to win a Golden Slipper but still get a good influx of horses coming to us.
“Every trainer who wins a Golden Slipper is guaranteed good yearlings and good stock coming through, I’m not saying we don’t get them but it is a big compliment to your business if you can win the race.”
If 2021 is the year Waller wins his first Group 1 $3.5m Longines Golden Slipper (1200m) it will surprise nobody given the number of feature two-year-old races his stable has collected this season.
It all started when Shaquero won the Group 3 Breeders’ Plate, the first two-year-old race of the season, and since then he’s added the Wyong Magic Millions (She’s All Class), Magic Millions Classic (Shaquero), Silver Slipper (Home Affairs), Skyline Stakes (O’President) and last week’s Pago Pago Stakes with Shaquero again.
Recent folklore will tell you until the last year or two Waller would train his first two-year-old winner of the season at around this time of the year and the potential topliners would emerge post-Golden Slipper.
The likes of The Autumn Sun and Zoustar didn’t debut until April of their two-year-old year while Brazen Beau and Pressday were February debutants who were pointed towards the later juvenile races. Each went on to Group 1 success either at two or three.
“I think it comes down to the right horse and the right horse to suit my training style,’’ Waller said.
“The horses we have this year are suited to the way we train. We have started a little earlier with them, they have been well prepared, some had a run before Christmas and that’s rare for my horses.
“My first two-year-old winner is normally a pretty good horse because they just do it before they are ready to do it, Brazen Beau and those horses, but they haven’t gone on to the Slipper.”
The TAB market suggests Waller will be waiting another year to find a place for the Golden Slipper trophy but it’s still an open year and there’s the great unknown of which horse will handle the heavy conditions best.
Shaquero, probably the greatest risk in heavy ground though that is based on his Skyline failure two runs ago, was $26 on Thursday, Home Affairs ($15) won the Silver Slipper on a soft 7 and O’President, who has a heavy win to his name, was at $13.
“We have three nice colts going to the race,’’ he said.
“O’President hasn’t raced since his win three weeks ago, Home Affairs’ run two weeks ago will top him off nicely for this race and Shaquero will bounce out of Saturday’s win without any problems.
“It’s a similar pattern we followed when he won the Magic Millions backing up within a week.
“O’President has won two races on soft and heavy and makes his own luck and he’s tough.
“I think he is more a three-year-old type and what I mean by that is a strong 1400m type horse, which might be required.
“All three are fairly versatile, they’ve been racing up on the pace but they have the ability to settle in their races.
“We saw that with Shaquero on Saturday, we saw that with Home Affairs last start and O’President won his lead up run leading but we’ve worked him in behind horses since.
“They have good heads on their shoulders, that’s a big part of the Golden Slipper just handling the day and the pressure of the race. I think they’ve had pretty good preparations towards it.”
O'President wins the Skyline Stakes at Randwick on February 27
Waller also has three runners in the Group 1 $700,000 Bisley Workwear Galaxy (1100m) but all eyes will be on the return of Haut Brion Her after she came of age as a topline sprinter in the spring.
Following a gallant fifth in The TAB Everest the mare was run down in the shadows by Gytrash on a heavy track in the $1m Yes Yes Yes Stakes (1300m) at Rosehill on October 31.
“She’s been up ready to go for a while,’’ Waller said.
“We were tempted to pull the trigger in the Challenge against Nature Strip and Eduardo but we didn’t.
“She’s a really good horse. It’s building towards she’s ready to peak so that’s exciting.
“What we saw in the spring was that she’s probably a faster horse than we gave her credit for so 1100m is a good starting point.”
The Group 1 $2.5m TJ Smith Stakes (1200m) is the logical autumn goal for Haut Brion Her, $4.80 favourite for the Galaxy on Thursday, and you’d imagine if she holds her form she’ll earn a second shot at the TAB Everest later this year.
Ex-WA galloper Fabergino, an easy trial winner on Monday, and Fiesta round out the Waller Galaxy trio.