By Ray Hickson
There’s always been something a little bit special about Four Moves Ahead to trainer John Sargent’s eye so it doesn’t surprise him the filly has overcome a bumpy path to Saturday’s Group 1 $3.5m Longines Golden Slipper (1200m) at Rosehill.
It’s been well documented that following her impressive debut win in January she contracted a cold and Sargent had to press pause for a couple of weeks then leading into the Silver Slipper she bumped a knee which caused further disruption to her program.
For her to win the Sweet Embrace Stakes a week later, with seven weeks between runs, is a testament to her toughness and Sargent suspects it all comes from a ‘killer instinct’ the filly possesses.
“She showed early on she was a natural two-year-old, anything I’d work her with she’d do it so easily next to them,’’ Sargent said.
“You see her when she works, when those ears go back, she has that killer instinct.
“She did that in (the Sweet Embrace) and I think you will see that on Saturday, the harder they go the better for her because she can relax.”
Four Moves Ahead’s presence in the Sargent stable is something of a lucky break.
She was passed in the Magic Millions sales after failing to reach a $300,000 reserve and sent to Sargent by owner Jonathan Munz as was the case with her half-sister Emeralds, a year earlier at Easter, who was passed in with a $150,000 reserve.
Then for Four Moves Ahead to emerge as a filly of well above average talent is akin to finding a needle in a haystack, especially for someone with Sargent’s numbers.
“We only have five or six two-year-olds a year so to get one in this race with a good chance is huge for the stable,’’ he said.
“Jonathan didn’t sell her at the sales and he still has her, now she’s going in with a very big chance.
“I said to Jonathan when she knocked the knee if this was going to be worse than we think and we pull the pin he’ll have a very good three-year-old filly.”
History shows they didn’t need to pull the pin and Four Moves Ahead booked her spot in the Slipper with a gutsy Sweet Embrace Stakes (1200m) win three weeks ago.
The Sweet Embrace was brutally run, 10 lengths faster in the first half compared to the Skyline Stakes on the same day won by O’President (Punter's Intelligence).
The overall time was three lengths faster and Four Moves Ahead sat second and third in the run and was still able to run the second fastest last 200m (12 seconds) and win the race.
All while underdone – so it’s no wonder she’s considered the most likely filly, third favourite at $7 with TAB on Wednesday, to fend off what looks a strong bunch of colts.
“I thought if she was going to be vulnerable it’ll be that race,’’ Sargent said.
“I told that to Nash (Rawiller) and he nursed her up the hill as long as he could because he knew she would be vulnerable late. But she put her ears back and fought well and showed she has a bit of class.
“She went to the beach for a few days after that then we’ve cranked her up the last two weeks. She hasn’t missed a gallop, she galloped very well on Tuesday morning on the course proper.”
Crystal Lily (2010) is the last Sweet Embrace winner to claim the Golden Slipper though Kiamichi did contest the race in 2019 before winning the Magic Night and Slipper.
Four Moves Ahead wins the Sweet Embrace at Randwick
Meanwhile, it’s also been quite an unorthodox path to the Slipper for Annabel Neasham’s filly Queen Of Wizardry given she hasn’t raced since finishing fourth in the Magic Millions on January 16.
Just a couple of weeks after her first Group 1 runners the filly will be Neasham’s first Slipper runner but it wasn’t intended to be that way.
Queen Of Wizardry, $81 with TAB, was due to contest the Magic Night Stakes last weekend as a stepping stone to longer races.
“Unfortunately she slipped over in the wash bay about 4am on Saturday and took some skin off her knee and couldn’t take her place,’’ Neasham said.
“She’s fine and worked well on Tuesday morning and trotted up well after so I’m excited about lining up. She’s a filly that is going to get better over ground.
"I’ve been working backwards from the Champagne. I was originally going to go Magic Night, Sires and Champagne but the Golden Slipper is not a bad second choice.”