THE Silver Slipper didn’t go to script. She Will Reign was supposed to fly solo out in front, not come out two lengths behind her rivals.
Syndicator Scott Darby admitted he gave up when he saw how badly the filly missed the start, her owners group probably felt the same, and those punters brave enough to take $1.35 were ready to tear up their betting tickets.
But what happened next was sensational as She Will Reign produced one of the best Golden Slipper trials in memory to turn imminent defeat into an improbable win.
The Group 2 $250,000 TAB Silver Slipper Stakes (1100m) at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday looked over before the race had begun for She Will Reign — but trainer Gary Portelli and jockey Ben Melham didn’t lose the faith.
In fact, Portelli thought it was “perfect” to see She Will Reign ridden with cover and Melham just let the filly cruise through along the inside rail, gradually making up the leeway.
“It didn’t worry me when she came out last because we have seen in trackwork what she can do when ridden behind other horses,’’ Portelli said. “But that was some win, she is some filly, and it looks like we have a genuine chance in the Golden Slipper now.’’
She Will Reign maintained her unbeaten record when she overcame her slow start, improved into the race around the turn and sprinted up the inside of Veranillo ($9.50) to win the Silver Slipper by 1½ lengths easing down.
Showtime ($26) ran on well for third, a half length further back, while Breeders Plate winner Khan finished at the rear of the seven-horse field.
Fairytale filly She Will Reign, who cost just $20,000 at the Classic Yearling Sale last year, is now in to $3 favourite for the $3.5 million Longines Golden Slipper (1200m) at Rosehill Gardens on March 18.
Portelli admitted he had a premonition She Will Reign would miss the start in the Silver Silver.
“I came here thinking something like that could happen,’’ Portelli said. “She is so relaxed, on raceday she goes into a bit of a trance, she is so quiet. She just stood there when the gates opened. It took something like that to happen to show everyone what she shows us at home and that is she can come from behind, she doesn’t have to lead.
“In her trackwork, she doesn’t touch the bridle until the rider asks her to go. I would say this is perfect education for her going into the Golden Slipper.’’
Darby conceded his attention turned to his other runner, Mystic Empire, when he saw how badly She Will Reign blew the start.
“I gave up, I thought she couldn’t win,’’ Darby said. “I was watching Mystic Empire for most of the race. But when I saw She Will Reign coming through — well, I started cheering for her again. What a win.’’
She Will Reign has now won each of her three starts and it was noticeable Melham didn’t have to use the whip on the filly in the run home.
“After we missed the kick there was no point trying to push her forward early,’’ Melham said.
“I just let her settle into her stride and she was always travelling well for me. We started to creep into the race from the 600m and by the turn I was confident she had their measure.’’
She Will Reign is now on target to join Mossfun (2014) as the only fillies to win the Silver Slipper-Golden Slipper double. The feat has also been achieved by colts Eskimo Prince (1964), Baguette (1970), Luskin Star (1977) and Pierro (2012).
Portelli said he intends to race She Will Reign in the Group 2 Reisling Stakes (1200m) in two weeks as her final Golden Slipper lead-up race.
“She blew up a little in the loins so there is improvement to come in this filly,’’ the trainer said. “The Reisling Stakes over 1200m will harden her up two weeks out from the Golden Slipper.’’
Godolphin trainer John O’Shea is not about to give up on Veranillo despite the colt’s defeat behind She Will Reign. “Veranillo didn’t shirk his task, he kept trying hard and we still have the option to put blinkers on,’’ O’Shea said.