The 2017 Golden Slipper Stakes presents as a difficult race for punters to solve.
While finding the winner of the richest juvenile race in the world is never easy, some years are easier to analyse than others – the task this year made more difficult due to no standout juvenile dominating the lead up races.
Add to this the possibility of a significantly rain affected racing surface combined with all eight major lead up races run on varying track conditions and the number of variables immediately gets multiplied several times over.
In a low rating juvenile year at this point of the season, the Timeform Leader Board has Pariah as the top rated colt on 118 with Houtzen, Catchy, She Will Reign equal top rated fillies on 116 apiece.
Close on their heels are Tulip, Invader and Trapeze Artist.
In any normal year, one could be reasonably confident the winner of this afternoon’s contest would be amongst that list but as highlighted earlier, there are more contributing factors than normal this year.
That aside it is hard to ignore that the Blue Diamond Stakes this year is the benchmark form line for the Golden Slipper and that assumption makes its winner Catchy the horse to beat.
On Timeform weight adjusted ratings Catchy and Pariah who quinellaed the Diamond with a long neck separating the pair on the line meet again on the same weight terms. After the fillies two kilo allowance is factored in, she enjoys the same advantage over that colt again and while both are unknown quantities on race day in anything other than firm footing it is hard to go past the pair as the top rated chances this afternoon.
Catchy is unbeaten in four runs but her closing sectionals in the Blue Diamond were outstanding as she continues to make incremental jumps in her Timeform rating profile. Another pleasing aspect of her win was the overall Timefigure she returned that almost matched her Timeform rating exactly – a clear indication that the win was just as good when measured against the clock.
The Blue Diamond Stakes has provided its share of Slipper winners since it was first run in 1971, John’s Hope (1972) being the first to take the double. He was followed by Manikato (1978), Bounding Away (1986), Courtza (1989) and Sepoy Horseform (2011) with three of the five, like Catchy, not racing between the two victories.
Catchy and Craig Williams, picture Quentinjlang.com
If successful Catchy will become the sixth juvenile to complete the double and also the third filly behind Courtza and Bounding Away.
In the case of Pariah, Blue Diamond placings have won four Slippers, Miss Finland the last in 2006.
While the overall median Timeform rating for the current juvenile crop is down against the five year average, Catchy’s 116 Timeform rating going into the Slipper is right on the average for filly winners since 2000.
Should Catchy win she will join a select group of Golden Slipper winners who have emerged from the race with their unbeaten record in tact – eleven to date with Vanvouver (2015) the last colt and Bounding Away (1986) the last of just two fillies to have that honour – Toy Show (1975) the other.
Pariah in the hands of Peter Snowden now training with his son Paul is the most successful modern day trainer in the race, the pair winning the race last year with Capitalist. Peter of course prepared previous winner Sepoy in 2011.
Pariah was probably not their top seed early on in Slipper deliberations but he has earned the right to his place in the race with three sterling runs. After luckily defeating Menari on debut, he followed up with an eye catching second in the Blue Diamond Prelude behind Property before just being run down late starting favourite in the Blue Diamond.
That effort was full of merit as Pariah was caught deep throughout on the back of the speed but still swept to the lead with 200m to travel only to be caught late by Catchy.
No doubt the run will have benefited him further and as the highest rated colt deserves respect from his good barrier. He profiles as capable of better still.
Unbeaten Queensland filly Houtzen is the “X factor” in the race and her dazzling early speed has been a feature of her victories – leading throughout in all four wins, her last at Eagle Farm under 63kgs over 1000m against her own age a fortnight back running to a Timeform rating of 116p.
While there is still some who question her ability to lead from barrier to box in a pressure race like the Golden Slipper, it is hard not to be impressed by her Magic Millions victory over the Slipper trip of 1200m in early January where she defeated Sydney colt Chaffeur doing just that.
The last and only filly to lead all the way in a Golden Slipper was the courageous Reisling in 1965.
Houtzen does have form in slow ground but it is likely she will need to be used up early from her wide barrier which may leave her exposed late. No filly has ever completed the Magic Millions –Golden Slipper double.
Also her lead up path to the Slipper is also under scrutiny as just one Slipper winner has not used one of the eight recognised lead up races since they were introduced in the early 70’s. Exception was Sebring in 2008 during the EI year when lead up races were thrown into chaos.
Another speedy filly She Will Reign could make things interesting up front if she does not miss the start as she can do.
She Will Reign had been the Slipper favourite until her first defeat in the Reisling Slipper Trial on a bottomless track at Randwick a fortnight back.
After winning her first two races in moderate company, She Will Reign proved her credentials with an amazing last to first win in the Silver Slipper Stakes at Rosehill on soft going over 1100m in mid-February.
That win ensured she started a warm favourite in the Reisling Stakes but she was caught by the swooper Frolic late in the straight, taking some of the gloss off her slipper aspirations.
In her defence the track was very heavy and she could not pick up when challenged late by a galloper in superior going.
It will pay to overlook that effort and assess her on the 116 Timeform rating from the Silver Slipper victory.
Black Opal Stakes winner Trapeze Artist looks a likely improver from his 114p figure returned in the Canberra feature.
Trapeze Artist’s winning margin of three lengths is the biggest of any winner in the eight major Slipper lead up races and that fact alone gives him more than an outside chance.
The Black Opal was Trapeze Artist’s third race start and second career win but was by far his highest rating performance.
No doubt wearing blinkers for the first time played a major role in his improved performance but there was a dominance about the effort that warrants respect. Trapeze Artist sat outside the leader until entering the home straight where he accelerated clear of his rivals to win eased down.
While he faces a superior line up today, Trapeze Artist’s adaptability will carry him a long way
Last Saturday’s Magic Night winner Tulip came off a solid fourth in the Blue Diamond (thereby franking that form in Sydney) to score convincingly and she has the advantage of already experiencing the tricky 1200m Rosehill track.
Of course she also steps up in class again combined with a quick seven day back up but winning form is good form and she did return a healthy Timeform rating of 115.
Enjoy a very open 60th renewal of the Golden Slipper.