A $20,000 yearling sale purchase landed the world’s richest two-year-old event when She Will Reign lived right up to her name to claim the $3.5m, Group 1 Longines Golden Slipper (1200m) at Rosehill on Saturday.
A bargain basement buy made by Darby Racing at the 2016 Sydney Classic Yearling Sale, She Will Reign took her earnings to a figure now in excess of $2.5 million with a consummate performance on extremely heavy ground under a heady ride by Melbourne-based jockey Ben Melham.
Ben Melham starts the winning celebrations with She Will Reign, picture Stevehart.com.au
Settled close to the tail of the field in a typically frenetic start to the breed shaping contest, Melham seized an opportunity to put She Will Reign in to a winning position when stealing an inside run up the fence rounding the home turn.
Asked to go and claim the early leader Houtzen (I Am Invincible) half-way down the straight, She Will Reign had little difficulty in reeling in the firm favourite before going on to score by a couple of clear lengths, holding off the late surge of Frolic (Husson) in the final furlong.
Runner-up Frolic was one of the major hard luck stories of another eventful Golden Slipper.
Last on settling, Frolic followed She Will Reign throughout the contest but was held-up behind runners when the winner gained a very timely split midway through the contest.
The final charge to the winning line saw Frolic make-up most of a six-to-eight lengths deficit on She Will Reign without ever appearing likely to run her rival down.
Last week’s Magic Night winner Tulip (Pierro) sustained a long, determined effort around the outside of the field to claim third-place from Menari (Snippets) in the very final stride.
Houtzen, after showing her customary brilliant early pace and clearly leading the field soon after settling, turned in a valiant effort when attempting to lead from start-to-finish to cross the line in 5th position.
So, too, was the performance of Trapeze Artist full of merit. The Group 3 Black Opal raced just behind the leaders on a very hot pace and battled on gamely down the straight to finish 6th.
She Will Reign won the $3.5m event in a time of 1m15.04s, scoring by 2.3L and 2 3/4L. She Will Reign, Frolic and Tulip were all returned at an SP of $8.00.
The Golden Slipper field spead out behind She Will Reign and Melham, picture Stevehart.com.au
Winning trainer Gary Portelli said in amazement: “What just happened. Can I watch the replay?
“I said she’d win on a dry track, but to win on a wet track is just phenomenal.
“That was unbelievable. I spoke to the jockey before the race and said to him ‘I think we have got to go forward’. He went quiet and said, ‘I think I’m going to go back to last. I am cutting the corner, I’m on the best horse and I’m going to ride her like I did in the Silver Slipper.”
In reflecting on a career that has taken him to one of the pinnacle triumphs of his trade, Portelli added: “I started training back in 1990, [and] have been in the game since 1986. This is the race that defines a trainer I believe.
“I’ve been around a long time, but I’ve finally got a Golden Slipper winner.
“This game has taken me a long way. I struggled to get through Year-10, I was a battler working a night shift in a bakery, but my dream was to become a city trainer.
“It goes to show to anyone out there who is not sure what they’re doing in life, that if you like something and want to do something, stick at it, work hard and days like this might come.”
Winning jockey Ben Melham was obviously just as elated.
“What an absolute thrill,” Melham declared. “The whole way through she has been a little darling this horse and she hasn’t put a foot wrong. She is not overly big but I tell you what, she certainly makes up for it with all heart.
“Gary and the team have done a tremendous job with this filly and have prepared her for a hard Golden Slipper run, and you certainly need a fit horse in these conditions today.
“All the credit goes to Gary really. He has done a great job and here we are… We have won a bloody Slipper.”
She Will Reign, by Manhattan Rain out of the Charge Forward mare Courgette, has now won four of her five starts and placed second in the other which was her last start in the Group 2 Reisling Stakes over 1200m at Randwick on March 4th.
She is owned by a large syndicate including Mr M D Holland, Mrs K A Allison, Mr G C Bachell, Mr R A Barrett, Mr M J Cameron, Mr B Craig, Mr M Evans, Mr B Furness, Mr J A Haworth, Mr T Hill, Mr J A Green, Mr R Kewley, Mr A Pieper, Mr J W Stone, Mr M R Tobin, Mr R S Wallace, Mr C J Webb, Mr A R Whatson, Mr M C Field and Twoipee Racing.
Golden Slipper, photo finish picture ATC
What the beaten jockeys said:
Blake Shinn (Pariah): “He just didn’t handle that track today.”
Brenton Avdulla (Veranillo): “He was just a bit green with the blinkers on for the first time. I thought he was going to run last at the corner so he’s done a good job to finish eighth.”
Tim Clark (Trapeze Artist): “I thought he ran pretty solid. He wasn’t entirely comfortable on the heavy track but I thought he ran well.”
Tye Angland (Single Bullet): “Just too wet. We had a reasonable run, it was a little bit tight at the half mile, but at the end of the day he just didn’t get through it.”
Glyn Schofield (Diamond Tathagata): “He ran a very credible race. If it was slightly drier it probably would have helped him a little.”
William Buick (Trekking): “He didn’t turn very well and the ground was too soft for him.”
Corey Brown (Menari): “Super run considering from the word go he never handled it. He dipped and dived but had the audacity to get up and run third. Very good.”
Craig Williams (Catchy): “She unfortunately couldn’t handle the ground. It was so heavy for her. After 400m I was not in contention and I just had to look after her from there.”
Ryan Moore (Formality): “She struggled on that ground today.”
Tommy Berry (Frolic): “The winner took my spot, he put me up the rail to get there. She was gallant in defeat and she looks like the perfect horse for the Sires and Champagne.”
Dwayne Dunn (Teaspoon): “She began well, put herself in a good spot, but she was gone along way from home. Didn’t handle that track.”
Jeff Lloyd (Houtzen): “She travelled well in front until she hit the course proper and her legs just went everywhere. The winner came past me very quickly, take nothing away from her, she put this filly to rest very quickly. She fought to the line but she never handled the conditions at all.”
Regan Bayliss (Madeenaty): “She struggled in the testing conditions.”
Josh Parr (Chauffeur): “He travelled to the corner like he was going to be in the finish but when I let him down the ground gave way underneath him and he didn’t like it.”