By Ray Hickson
Sunlight has made it to the Golden Slipper because Sunlight wanted to be there.
Trainer Tony McEvoy has done plenty of cheerleading about the super filly in the lead up to Saturday’s $3.5m Longines Golden Slipper (1200m) at Rosehill Gardens but he’s clearly also in awe of how she’s responded to the tasks she’s been set.
Once McEvoy discovered quite a big engine under the hulking filly’s frame he quickly worked out she needed plenty of revs before a big race.
Hence asking Sunlight to have two lead-up runs in the Magic Millions, including one seven days prior, and another two lead-ups into the Golden Slipper with again a pipe opener a week before.
“I’ve never had to push her to do anything, she’s taken us there. If they are a two-year-old they are a two-year-old,’’ McEvoy said.
“I never push my young horses and she’s just wanted to sit at the front of the bus all the way along.
“Others might catch up to her when they get older but you’d be game to suggest that because she has got such class.’’
No filly has completed the Magic Millions-Golden Slipper double and only three of the boys, the latest Capitalist in 2016, have achieved that feat of strength.
And strength is exactly what Sunlight has – she’s a 510kg machine that dwarfs her stablemate Oohood, McEvoy’s second Slipper runner, at a measly 440kg.
On the back of her five straight wins Sunlight is the $4.20 favourite for the Slipper and McEvoy, whose lone Slipper starter so far is Risen From Doubt who ran 13th in 2014, was a little nervous earlier in the week about the prospect of a heavy track come Saturday.
With what has unfolded through the week producing more favourable conditions than first thought it alleviates some of those concerns but he says a wet track is still an unknown even though she has some trial experience in trying conditions.
“At least she’s had a feel of it under her feet and Luke (Currie) loved her that day,’’ he said.
“And that was when we were assessing her to see what level she was. But trials are trials and when you have a hold of their head most horses handle the ground.
“She’s a high-class filly and you’d also be a game man to say she wouldn’t handle it.’’
What McEvoy does know is that Sunlight gained a small advantage when she drew barrier five, right alongside second favourite Written By, as it will allow her to take whatever run Currie wants through the race.
She led all the way to win the Magic Night Stakes last weekend, to mixed reviews given Written By clocked half a second faster, running a moderate 35.03 for her last 600m (Punters Intel).
“It makes Luke’s job a bit easier to have the horses you need in your sights near you,’’ McEvoy said.
“I think it makes it easier for him to make those decisions earlier in the race. Ef Troop will fly out and so will Written By, there’ll be some juggling early and who knows Estijaab might come across the lot of them and if that’s the case that’d be okay also.
Sunlight wins the Magic Night Stakes at Rosehill Gardens on March 17
“We’ve never forced her to be a leader. She has great natural pace so she will be right thereabouts.
“Luke said after the Magic Night that he’d love to have a bunny and I think we might get the opportunity for that to happen.’’
While Sunlight rightly takes top billing, McEvoy said if circumstances pan out differently his other filly Oohood has the talent to spring a surprise.
Oohood is a $23 chance despite running third (at $9) behind Written By in the Blue Diamond Stakes in Melbourne last month and holding a decision over Seabrook (who is $8 in the Slipper) from the Prelude two weeks earlier.
“I don’t think she handled Caulfield at all and still was competitive in those high-class races,’’ McEvoy said.
“I’m not sure you can do the things wrong she does and win a Golden Slipper but I’ve added a set of blinkers, she’s had the feel of a trial at Randwick and she’s really well.’’
McEvoy noted out of the trial on March 15, where Oohood was partnered by his nephew Kerrin, is that she wasn’t so sure footed in the heavy ground until the last 200m when her confidence picked up.
Hong Kong-based Zac Purton rides the filly from a gate the trainer says will allow her to find her feet.
“I prefer better ground for her but she is hard and fit and has figured in a lot of those good competitive races in Melbourne and she will run very well,’’ he said.
“If it was a real battle up front she could be just poking through at the end.’’