Jordan Childs and Written By return to scale after winning the Pago Pago Stakes (Lisa Grimm)
Hall of Fame trainer, Neville Begg, has had a long association with the Golden Slipper Stakes.
Indeed, the very first Slipper in 1957 was won by Todman, trained by the late and very great, Maurice McCarten, for whom Begg was stable foreman.
Begg had joined McCarten as a stable boy in 1945 – at age 14 – and, as a consequence, was up close and personal with many of the greats of the era: Todman and his full brother, Noholme, Delta, Columnist, Wenona Girl, Knave. A long list.
However, it was on St Patrick’s Day in 1967 that Begg first had a runner under his own shingle: winning at Randwick with Biarritz Star.
The colt, who would later win a Challenge Stakes and Frederick Clissold, was one of just four horses in Begg’s stable at the time, but again the connection was familial. Biarritz Star was out the Star Kingdom mare, Concert Star, who was also trained by McCarten and who had run third behind Todman in that inaugural Slipper.
Begg soon became a fixture of Australian racing, winning the 1968 AJC Derby with Divide And Rule and ultimately finished runnerup to the legendary TJ Smith on nine occasions in the Sydney trainers’ premiership.
From his opening team of four, the Begg stable increased to 90 horses at one stage, but Begg soon scaled it back to a more manageable number.
“I’ve never driven a car and it just became too hard to have that many horses in work, but I ended up doing just as well with 50 as with 90,” Begg recalls.
Prior to his decision to join the Hong Kong training ranks in 1990, Begg would saddle up a galaxy of turf stars and, despite luminaries such as Divide And Rule and Epsom/Rawson hero, Dalmacia, he really earned his renown as a trainer of fillies.
Hardly a reflection on versatility … not with Emancipation (six Group One victories including the 1984 Coolmore Classic) and November Rain (VRC, AJC & QTC Oaks) on your resume!
Another of Begg’s fillies, Dark Eclipse would capture the 1980 Golden Slipper.
“I’ve had about half a dozen runners in the Slipper, including Eugene (third to Sweet Embrace in 1967) and Sufficient who ran second behind Hartshill (in 1974), but to win the race with Dark Eclipse was pretty special,” Begg adds.
Now Begg is a very good chance to end a 38 year ‘drought’ in Saturday’s $3.5 million Longines Golden Slipper Stakes over 1200m at Rosehill Gardens, but this time in an entirely different role.
Begg is the breeder of Blue Diamond Stakes winning colt, Written By, who is trained by his son, Grahame, and maintained his unbeaten record (4 from 4) with a bold, front-running display in Saturday’s Group Three Insitu Pago Pago Stakes over the Slipper course and distance.
Despite it being the colt’s first run in Sydney, his first run in three weeks, and running a faster time than prevailing Slipper favourite, Sunlight, in the Magic Night 40 minutes earlier, some track watchers were underwhelmed with Written By’s performance and the colt currently sits on the second line of betting.
“I thought it (the Pago Pago) was a very good win,” Begg points out. “He really toughed it out and he’s such a good doing fellow that Grahame tells me the colt went straight home and stuck his head in the feed bin. Always a good sign.
“It’s essential he gets a decent (barrier) draw of course, but we’ve got our fingers crossed.”
Despite the Emancipations, November Rains, Dark Eclipses and Dalmacias, Begg cites the win of Monopolize in the 1995 Hong Kong International Bowl as a career highlight.
“And I didn’t train the winner! I was training in Hong Kong at the time, but Grahame had the horse in Australia, brought him up to Hong Kong to win the race and was ridden by my son-in-law, Wayne Harris, with all the family around,” Begg says proudly. “That’s hard to top.”
True enough, but winning a Golden Slipper with a horse you bred, particularly one that is trained by your son, might come very close.