Sunlight continues on her Golden Slipper path with a win in the Magic Night Stakes (Lisa Grimm)
The final lead ups for the 2018 $3.5 million Group One Longines Golden Slipper Stakes went according to Hoyle at Rosehill Gardens last Saturday with Sunlight capturing the Group Three Canadian Club Magic Night Stakes, only to be followed 40 minutes on, with Written By maintaining his unbeaten record in the Group Three Insitu Pago Pago Stakes.
While both produced bold, front running displays, the $2 million Magic Millions 2YO Classic winner, Sunlight, appeared to handle her assignment with a bit more ease, although Written By ran the faster time over the same (Slipper) course and distance.
Excuses can be made for Blue Diamond Stakes winner, Written By, given it was his first run in Sydney, and trainer, Grahame Begg, was hardly disappointed by the performance.
“He (Written By) is all quality this little bloke,” Begg enthused. “He never knows when to sit down. He’s got a lot of improvement in him and he had a pretty soft win relative to how we usually train him.
“Sometimes we even have to work him on raceday so there is certainly a bit left to come on Saturday.”
That said, Sunlight remains on the top line of betting for the Slipper and her trainer, Tony McEvoy, has an air of confidence and feels that the seven days between runs won’t hinder the filly’s chances.
“I factored the race (Magic Night) into her preparation like we did when backing her up into the Magic Millions (winning by 4.5 lengths at the Gold Coast on the Saturday prior).
“We just have to hold her together until Saturday. It’s very, very exciting for us and the thing we’ve come to learn with this filly is that she’s tough. I wish we had more of them.”
As with every other Golden Slipper, the barrier draw on Tuesday will play a vital role.
For instance, Phelan Ready – in 2009 – was the only horse since the race was first run in 1957 to win from the outside barrier of 16, although Vancover would win it from the same chute in 2015.
Just for the record, nine horses have won from the inside barrier, and four of those since 2007, but if your colt or filly has drawn 13, well, it’s not just triskaidekaphobia that’s against you.
Fortunately, in Sunlight’s case, 26 fillies have won the Slipper – as recently as She Will Reign in 2017 – while Written By would become the sixth Blue Diamond winner to double up in the Slipper and his sire, Written Tycoon, produced the 2016 winner in Capitalist.
However, recent history appears to be against both Sunlight and Written By given that the last Magic Night winner to go on to Slipper glory was Bint Marscay in 1993, while Stratum – back in 2005 – was the last of three Pago Pago winners to perform the double.
Winner of the 1961 Golden Slipper, Magic Night would later be sent to stud in North America and the first running of the race in her honour was in 1975: won by ultimate Slipper winner Toy Show.
Other Magic Night/Slipper winners were Century Miss (1979), Dark Eclipse (1980, trained by Begg’s father Neville) and Bounding Away (1986).
Meanwhile, the Pago Pago – named after the 1963 Slipper winner – was first staged in 1978 and while Inspired (1984) and Rory’s Jester (1985) produced the Pago Pago/Slipper double in successive years, the only other success story was the aforementioned Stratum.
(Pago Pago – or ‘Pango Pango’ – won his Slipper on a Wednesday after the race had been washed out the previous Saturday. He too would stand in North America before returning to Australia in the late 70s).
So, while history does appear to be against Sunlight or Written By on Saturday, horse racing does have a habit of defying trends.