Slipper shaping as a cracker
THERE are only two unbeaten youngsters in the field but this is still shaping as a blockbuster $3.5 million Longines Golden Slipper (1200m) on Saturday.
The juvenile racing this autumn has been the most exciting in years with all the vital lead-up races over the last month, the Silver Slipper, Skyline Stakes, Todman Stakes, Pago Pago Stakes, Sweet Embrace Stakes, Reisling Stakes and Magic Night Stakes providing thrilling finishes.
The winning margins in each of these races has been a half length or less with the exception of Sunlight's one-and-a-quarter length win in the Magic Night Stakes on Saturday.
Brilliant filly Sunlight has won five races in succession and retains favouritism for the world's richest juvenile race but she hasn't been totally dominant, having only a neck to spare over Estijaab in the Silver Slipper.
Sunlight and Estijaab are the pick of the eight fillies expected to make the final field with their ranks bolstered by the untapped talents of Seabrook, Fiesta, Enbihaar and Oohood, plus the hardy duo Sizzling Belle and Secret Lady.
Written By scored his fourth win from as many starts in the Pago Pago Stakes and joins Todman Stakes winner Aylmerton as the youngsters protecting perfect race records in the Golden Slipper.
Performer has only been beaten once when he lost his rider, Hugh Bowman, but his barrier trial win when wearing blinkers last week was sensational.
Santos is tough and has the rare ability to absorb pressure, Ef Troop has abundant speed, Long Leaf, Prairie Fire and Encryption have all competed at a high level.
Secret Lady, prepared by defending Slipper-winning trainer Gary Portelli, looks likely to squeeze into the Golden Slipper field with just over $130,000 prizemoney, the highest cut-off amount in the race's history which further underlines the depth of Saturday's field.
Sunlight confirmed Golden Slipper favouritism with her Magic Night Stakes win last Saturday and has pulled up "beautifully", according to trainer Tony McEvoy.
"She is in a good zone and only lost 6kg despite the heat,'' McEvoy told Sky Sports Radio's Big Sports Breakfast Weekend show on Sunday.
But McEvoy conceded the forecast of a wet week and the likelihood of a rain-affected track for the Golden Slipper has him feeling "really nervous".
"Sunlight is a gross filly, she is heavily built,'' McEvoy said. "She has a lot of speed and the rain tends to dull speed.''
However, McEvoy did say Sunlight hasn't been tested on a rain-affected track so there is no evidence to suggests she can't handle wet conditions either.
Written By did win his debut race on a heavy surface so at least the colt's trainer, Grahame Begg, doesn't need to fear a wet track.
Begg conceded Sunlight was looming as the one to beat, describing the filly as the "benchmark two-year-old.''
The other Golden Slipper intangible is the all-important barrier draw which is held at 11am on Tuesday. Most trainers and jockeys said they would prefer to draw between three and 10 for Saturday's big race.