Bren O’Brien



New crop: Top five Australian two-year-olds

Bren O’Brien casts his eye over the current Australian two-year-old ranks, picking out the top five juveniles on race performance to this point of the season.

What do we know about the current Australian two-year-old crop? Well we might have had 11 juvenile stakes races already in Australia this season, but the answer to that question is very little.

Twelve months ago, all we had seen of future Golden Slipper winner and champion two-year-old Fireburn was a mid-week defeat at Warwick Farm. Two years ago, Stay Inside had yet to trial, let alone debut, while three years ago Farnan had only won a Sunday two-year-old race at Canberra. 

A look back at the recent winners of the Golden Slipper will tell you that the last winner of the Golden Slipper who won a stakes race before today’s date, December 12, was Capitalist in 2016.

The nature of two-year-old racing and the fragility of young horses when it comes to their early racing campaigns can mean that December’s champion can be forgotten by March, so its very much buyer beware for those taking single-figure odds about the Slipper favourite, King’s Gambit, right now.

But we can assess what we have seen, based on racetrack performances, and we have ranked them, as things stand, from five to one.

5. Sunsource (Zoustar x Patricia Dawn)

Trainers: Trent Busuttin and Natalie Young  

The Ballarat Magic Millions 2YO Classic has not been a strong source of future stars, but the switch back to the traditional anti-clockwise ‘Victorian’ direction makes it less of a novelty event and more of a proper race. Sunsource is a $370,000 Magic Millions colt by a leading stallion in Zoustar out of a stakes-performed mare from a fast American family and that has been a successful formula for juvenile success in recent years.

His win at Ballarat was full of merit. He missed the start and had to work his way between runners but on a rain-affected track, he let down superbly to win by a widening 1.75-length margin. His last 600 metres was 3.5-lengths quicker than anything else in the race.

The form from that race measures up well, with Pure Paradise, who was second, also the runner-up behind reigning Golden Slipper favourite King’s Gambit in the Debutant Stakes, while sixth place Malaboom came out and won the Calaway Gal Stakes at Eagle Farm on Saturday.

4. Charm Stone (I Am Invincible x Najoom)

Trainers: Mick Price and Michael Kent Jnr

Expectations have always been high on Charm Stone, who at $1.55 million was the most expensive filly at the Magic Millions Yearling Sale. Her sister, Najmaty, was a stakes-winning two-year-old and so too is this filly, having won the G3 Ottawa Stakes during the Flemington carnival.

She debuted with a third in the Maribyrnong Trial, subsequent stakes winner Krakarib was behind her that day, and then improved significantly into her second run where she was dominant in defeating Empress Of Wonder, who impressed with another second at stakes level at Eagle Farm on Saturday.

Multiple stakes-winners See You In Heaven and Dosh have come through victories in the Ottawa Stakes in recent years, so it’s generally been a good guide.

While she is eligible for the Magic Millions, managing owner Sheamus Mills has confirmed Charm Stone will target the G1 Blue Diamond in her home state and not head to Queensland.

3. Barber (Exceed And Excel x Trim)

Trainer: James Cummings

Godolphin’s two-year-old ranks are always strong and to this point of the season, the best of its contingent has been Barber, who is unbeaten from his two starts. His debut in the Kirkham Plate was very professional, as he tracked the leader and fought his way to victory over 1000 metres. His Golden Gift win was very much in contrast. He missed the start from a wide barrier, settled near last and then unleashed a blistering finish to nab victory in the $1 million race.

The ability to overcome trouble in the run is an important attribute for an elite two-year-old and Barber looks to have the quality expected of such a regal pedigree. The nick of Exceed And Excel with Lonhro mares has produced five stakes winners, among them this colt’s sister Manicure. Not being eligible for sales races means Barbed is likely to be focussed directly at the Golden Slipper.

2. Platinum Jubilee (Zoustar x Miss Debutante)

Trainers: Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott

Platinum Jubilee, a $600,000 yearling, was outstanding in winning the G3 Gimcrack Stakes back in October, coming from a long way back to weave through and win comfortably. Her final 200-metre sectional was 3.5 lengths faster than any other horse in the race and while it is hard to ascertain the quality of her opposition that day, third-placed Diving Glory has been a subsequent winner.

That victory saw her join her half-sister Queen Of The Ball as a juvenile stakes winner. Certainly, it’s a pedigree with plenty of precocity and speed and this filly will look to add to that when she contests the Magic Millions 2YO Classic. She has shown enough in a couple of recent trials to suggest she is open to further improvement in her second campaign.

1. Empire of Japan (Snitzel x Ichihara)

Trainers: Peter and Paul Snowden

Empire Of Japan was spectacular in winning on debut in the Breeders’ Plate, a race won in the last decade or so by future Slipper winners Capitalist, Vancouver and Pierro. He sat near the rear of the field through much of that race before James McDonald unleashed him down the outside, and he powered away to win by a widening 2.95-length margin.

The time was just under a length quicker than Platinum Jubilee ran in winning the Gimcrack 35 minutes later, while his late sectionals were substantially faster than his rivals with his final 50 metres his best work. It’s been difficult to assess how strong that race was as most of his rivals haven’t been seen again, but the times and margins speak of his own dominance.

Empire Of Japan emulated his dam Ichihara as a stakes-winning two-year-old, and the $680,000 purchase from Magic Millions will get his chance to again demonstrate his dominance in the Gold Coast feature in January. Peter Snowden has suggested he will run in the G3 BJ McLachlan Stakes on December 24 and then go straight to his main summer target.


Snitzel colt Empire Of Japan. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

Notable others

King’s Gambit – Current Slipper favourite who will go to the Blue Diamond. His win in the Debutant Stakes was dominant, but that race has historically not proven a strong guide to the big juvenile features.

Empress Of Wonder – Two starts for two very good seconds, both at stakes level. She looks a very progressive filly but needs to get a win under her belt.

Little Brose – His two starts saw him beaten narrowly in the Maribyrnong Plate and then win the Merson Cooper Stakes.

Godfather – He was a very comfortable winner on debut in Listed company on Saturday. Just need to see him against better opposition.



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