Darley two year old Epaulette is on target for a Golden Slipper start after taking out the Listed $250,000 Kamberra Wine Company Black Opal Stakes (1200m) at Canberra on Sunday.
Trainer Peter Snowden will be looking for back to back wins in the Group 1 $3.5m AAMI Golden Slipper (1200m) at Rosehill on April 7 after taking out last year’s glamour two year old race with Sepoy.
Epaulette, who is a half brother to Group 1 winning three year old Helmet, put himself into Slipper contention after he made it two wins from two starts.
Snowden gave the Commands colt a short break after winning the Australian Turf Club 2yo Handicap (1200m) at Rosehill on December 26 to get him ready for yesterday on his way to the Golden Slipper.
“I think he’s a Slipper horse,” Snowden said.
“He’s sharp enough. You can see there today he’s got good gate speed and he relaxed pretty well.”
Jockey Kerrin McEvoy rode a positive race on Epaulette and after racing in a forward spot he was able to run the down the leader, Later Gator and fight of the challenge of runner up Faustus.
Epaulette was sent out the $3 favourite and was able to hold out the John O’Shea trained Faustus ($6) with Later Gator ($4.60) hanging on for third.
“We had a couple of game plans but he began really well so I was able to use that speed to get across,” McEvoy said.
“There’s no doubt he’s going to have to improve again to be in Slipper contention but there’s every chance that he could.”
Snowden agrees that Epaulette will have to improve to be genuine Slipper chance but is certain he has something to work with.
“He’ll improve a good bit off this as well. I had him fairly right but I know there is a lot more improvement left in the horse,” Snowden said.
“He’s definitely our best two-year-old going into it.”
Snowden wasn’t concerned that the youngster had to be ridden upside down from a Slipper perspective but now that he has over $190,000 in the bank he will probably run in the Group 2 $300,000 Todman Slipper Trial (1200m) at Rosehill on March 24 as his final lead up for Golden Slipper day.
Jockey Jim Cassidy was unsure if Faustus would make a Slipper horse but said the Group 1 $500,000 Inglis Sires Produce Stakes (1400m) at Randwick on April 14 and the Group 1 $400,000 Champagne Stakes (1600m) at Randwick the week later would suit him.
“I was going to run eighth on the turn and his run was enormous,” Cassidy said.
“I couldn’t be more happy with him. Whether he’s a Slipper horse is yet to be decided but I’m confident which ever way they go. As for the Sires and the Champagne, he’s right in the mix and the good thing about him is there is only upside.”