Preview of the 2024 Golden Slipper

This year's race will take place on Saturday 23rd March. Tim Whiffler scrutinises the breeding of the leading contenders.

Ryan Moore riding Shinzo wins the 2023 Golden Slipper (Photo by Jeremy Ng/Getty Images)

Tim Whiffler



In 1888 the biggest “purse” for any horse race in the USA was run at Coney Island and was restricted to immature 2YOs. It was named the Futurity Stakes, even though, how a developing horse performs as a 2YO, does not correlate strongly with what it will do in the future as a fully mature 4YO. So began American enthusiasm for juvenile horse racing motivated by a desire to get a quick return on the outlays associated either with breeding and rearing one’s own racehorse or else with what it cost at a yearling sale. 2YO racing is a test of precocity and what is interesting is that certain sires (rather than dams) produce offspring which develop in this manner. This is not to say that they only produce precocious horses but rather a mixture depending on the bloodlines of the mares they served.

To aid USA enthusiasts for juvenile racing, at the end of every 2YO season a list of sires began to be compiled grading them on how much prizemoney their juveniles had accumulated and to a lesser extent on the number of individual winners produced. This is known as the LEADING 2YO SIRES LIST.


The American publication “Bloodhorse” described this trend:

“Since 1922 about 18% of all registered foals have been sold at public auction and considerably more at private sales. Prices for yearlings continue to rise and purchasers, understandably, are concerned about a return, preferably quick, on their investment.

 “Consequently, sire lists are compiled, in addition to the general lists, to point up sires whose progeny seem to be characterized by precocity. Yearling buyers scan these for stallions whose get might best be expected to earn purse money at the earliest opportunity.”


While the USA was trending in this direction, in Australia the No 1 race was the Melbourne Cup and the prime ambition of a breeder or yearling purchaser was to get the winner of that race. In the 1950’s a pivotal moment was reached. At that time George Ryder was a committee member of the Sydney Turf Club and a horse breeder. He stood the stallion Newtown Wonder (GB) (1942) whose progeny were noted for their precocity. Ryder was au fait with how racing was trending in the USA and moved to have the Sydney Turf Club introduce a “big purse” race for 2YOs to be run over six furlongs. No doubt he was motivated by an expectation that this would suit Newtown Wonder’s offspring. His move succeeded and this “big purse 2YO race” was named the Golden Slipper. It was first run in 1957. Today it is the world’s richest 2YO race.

When that 2YO season began a son of Newtown Wonder, Flying Kurana won the Breeders Plate and buoyed Ryder’s hopes for success in the initial Slipper. It was not to be. Flying Kurana finished second in that race beaten eight lengths by a champion racehorse and a legend of the Australian turf, Todman.

To thwart Ryder’s ambitions a new sire of precocious horses had appeared on the scene named Star Kingdom (GB) (1946). His first son to race, Kingster, won the 1954 Breeders Plate and his first daughter to race Ultrablue won the 1954 Gimcrack Stakes. These two races mark the start of the 2YO season. Todman was by Star Kingdom and stunned the racing world at his first start when he broke the Randwick track record for 5F in winning. At his second start he won the December 2YO Quality (6F) by 10L. As a lead up to the Slipper he raced against the older horses in a 6F Welter and trounced them.

Newtown Wonder never sired a Slipper winner, but Star Kingdom sired the first five winners of this race. When Todman went to stud his son Eskimo Prince (from Todman’s first crop) won the 1964 Slipper and his daughter Sweet Embrace won the 1967 Slipper.

Eskimo Prince marked the transition in Australian breeding from trying to breed a Melbourne Cup winner to trying to breed precocious horses. His dam Chicquita (1946) had finished second to Comic Court in the 1950 Melbourne Cup. In 1956 she had been mated with her conqueror, Comic Court, and produced a horse which ran second to Even Stevens in the 1962 Melbourne Cup, Comicquita (1957). This mating was a pre-Slipper mating. In 1960 Chicquita was mated with Todman and the result Eskimo Prince, a magnificent jet-black colt, was clearly the best 2YO of his generation. The career of Eskimo Prince is so fascinating that I am moved to digress and relate it before the preview of this year’s Slipper. It is exactly 60 years ago since Eskimo Prince’s win in the Slipper.




Eskimo Prince was sold as a yearling at auction and bought by Perc Galea who was a member of the Clovelly Eskimos, men who enjoyed swimming in the middle of winter. That is how the horse got its name. However, Galea also ran the biggest illegal baccarat game at Sydney’s Kings Cross and was a huge but flamboyant punter. As a result of his “livelihood” the Committee of The Australian Jockey Club refused to make Galea a member and have him mingle with the supposed respectable gentlemen of the turf in the members’ enclosure. The Sydney Turf Club also denied Galea membership. The only time he was allowed “inside” was when a horse he owned was racing. So Galea had several horses most of which had the word “Prince” in their name.

Galea did not have to wait long for a return on what he had paid at auction for this son of Todman. His horse won his heat at the official 2YO trials in the style of an upcoming star. Eskimo Prince then sealed that promise by winning the Breeders Plate in emphatic style.

We now move to the scene at Rosehill racecourse when Eskimo Prince had won the Slipper. There was Perc Galea inside the members enclosure waiting for his champion to return to scale and outside the enclosure the public had swarmed, many deep, to cheer back the horse which had started favourite and Galea himself who was popular with them. Galea had not just won this race; he had landed a fortune in bets by backing his horse to win the race when first markets on it were framed. Bursting with pride and exuberance Galea at one stage then moved towards the crowd and threw handfuls of money over the rail to them, pounds not dollars and these were big notes. Those in the members enclosure got none.

This action did not sit well with the Committee of The Australian Jockey Club. So, when Eskimo Prince had his next start in the Sires’ Produce at Randwick, Galea was warned that he was not allowed to “feed the chooks” as it were because someone might get injured in the scramble for money. Eskimo Prince duly won that race and the crowd again swarmed waiting for “chook feed” but were left disappointed.

At the start of his 3YO season Eskimo Prince was set for the AJC Derby, then run at the same time as the Epsom Hcp. Why should his stamina be in doubt when his dam had been runner up in a Melbourne Cup. This Derby was also run on the same day as the Breeders Plate and so his performance in the Derby would also be on the anniversary of his first race start. The horse won his lead up race, the Rosehill Guineas (10F) by four or more lengths and consequently was marked favourite for the Derby at $1.16. This sent the Committee of the Australian Jockey Club into a tailspin. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II would be at Randwick and was going to present the trophy for the Derby. Good Grief! The Queen would have to meet and greet this persona non grata and there was nothing they could do to prevent it.

On the morning of the Derby Eskimo Prince’s trainer Cec Rolls told his regular jockey Athol Mulley to “breeze” the horse down a couple of furlongs. As the trainer watched, his complexion changed dramatically. The horse was not following instructions. He was bolting not just a few extra furlongs but a complete circuit of the course (about 2000m).

On return Mulley said: “I’m sorry Cec I just couldn’t hold him.”

This episode had been watched by Harry Plant who had trained the champion Bernborough. He had formed the opinion that Mulley had hooked up Bernborough in that horse’s penultimate race, the Caulfield Cup, and was no fan of that jockey. After Mulley left, Plant went up to Rolls and, mindful of that race, he sarcastically commented:

“It’s amazing how strong he gets once he has had his breakfast.” This incident was not made public and the horse ran at that short price but was unplaced. The AJC Committee heaved a deep sigh of relief. The Queen was “spared” from meeting Perc Galea. (As told by Perc’s son, the late Bruce Galea).

Eskimo Prince was never the same horse. He did win one more Stakes race, the STC Hill St (10f) as an Autumn 3YO. He was set for the Stradbroke Hcp but failed and Galea was reported to have lost heavily. Eskimo Prince was then sold to the USA. After he had arrived there, it was found that he had only one good lung and a paralysed throat valve. The question then arises whether this was a genetic condition or a consequence of what had happened on Derby Day or a combination of both. There is yet another explanation and one of the reasons for raising this story. Did Eskimo Prince pay this price for having unnatural pressure applied while still an immature 2YO?

Eskimo Prince stood at stud in Oklahoma but was poorly used.




This is an opportune time to preview this season’s Slipper, scheduled to be run on March 23 because in the last 30+ years no horse has won the Slipper which had not begun its racing career before February 1- with only three exceptions.

These exceptions arose when the Slipper was run in April which will not be the case this time. It is safe to say that no horse within these 30 years has won the Slipper without having begun its career at least five weeks prior to that race.

 Last Saturday (Feb 17) was the fifth week before the Slipper so that means all the main contenders have raced and are known. This is a high-quality Slipper and at the time of writing there are six unbeaten colts vying for the top position.

The unbeaten colts are Storm Boy, Espionage, Bodyguard, Coleman, Switzerland and Fully Lit.  After the Slipper there will only be one, or none, of these colts still unbeaten. The Sydney races leading to the Slipper as well as the Blue Diamond* (G1) to be run next Saturday will have a huge effect on the 2YO SIRES LIST. This is how that LIST stands at present:

*Melbourne’s “big purse” 2YO race first run 1971


Runners Winners Prizemoney
JUSTIFY 3 2 $3,039,130
ALABAMA EXPRESS 9 4 $1,470,655
HELLBENT* 11 2 $1,350,095
SNITZEL 16 5 $1,286.250
TOO DARN HOT 8 4 $726,800
PER INCANTO  4 1 $634,490
CAPITALIST 23 5 $624,540
KOBOYASHI* 7 5 $616,275
I AM INVINCIBLE 19 2 $574,965
BRAZEN BEAU* 12 4 $571,945

(Statistics by kind arrangement from “Stallions” & based on data from Arion Pedigrees)

*by I Am Invincible

What is surprising about this table is the low ranking of I Am Invincible since he is currently leading the GENERAL SIRES LIST (all ages combined) and that he has been the leading Australian sire for the past two seasons. He has three sons in this list. They all sit either above him or close by him. Nor should it be overlooked that he has had more runners than any other stallion in this table except for Capitalist. A closer examination reveals that I Am Invincible has to date not sired a single 2YO G1 winner even though he was top of the 2YO SIRES LIST for the 2018-2019 season mainly because his daughter Loving Gaby was second in the G1 ATC Sires Produce and in the G1 Champagne Stakes.

In stark contrast his progeny improve dramatically as 3YOs and older. He has sired 8 individual G1 3YO winners of 13 G1 races. They include Brazen Beau (VRC Coolmore Stud S and VRC Newmarket), In Secret (VRC Coolmore Stud S and VRC Newmarket), Home Affairs (VRC Coolmore Stud S and VRC Lightning St),  Loving Gaby  (Manikato S and William Reid St at Moonee Valley and 2nd in VRC Newmarket) , Imperatriz (2 G1s in NZ),  I Am A Star (VRC Myer Classic),  Media Sensation (NZ 1000 Guineas), and Oohood (ATC Flight S). Now a 5YO, Imperatriz trains on having accumulated to date 9 G1s and her last 10 starts read:1112111111. If I were buying an Australian horse to race in Hong Kong, I would choose a lightly raced 2YO by I Am Invincible because it will improve with age.

I Am Invincible’s son Bodyguard will contest the Blue Diamond next Saturday and the statistics may appear to be against him except for one factor. He may throw to his dam’s line and his second dam Mossfun won the 2014 Golden Slipper.

Snitzel stands in contrast to I Am Invincible. He has led the GENERAL SIRES LIST for four consecutive seasons (2016-2017,2018,2019,2020) and the TWO-YEAR LIST four times (2016-2017, 2017-2018, 2019-2020, and 2022-2023). To date he has produced 2 Golden Slipper winners (Shinzo 2023 and Estijaab 2018) and four other individual G1 2YO winners. They are Invader (ATC Sires Produce), Sizzling (BRC T. J. Smith Classic) as well as Sword of State and Summer Passage in NZ. Snitzel’s progeny also train on as is evidenced by the dual Everest winner Redzel. He did not win his first G1 until late in his 4YO season and was a 5YO and 6YO when triumphant in those Everests.

Prior to last Saturday there were seven, not six, unbeaten colts as leading Slipper contenders. Last Saturday witnessed the first clash of two of these colts when Switzerland by Snitzel was up against Shangri La Express by Alabama Express in the Pierro Plate.

It had been the feats of Shangri La Express which had lifted his sire to second place on the above list. This was a significant clash and Switzerland prevailed by 0.7L after a dour struggle down the home straight. Each of the trainers of these two horses declared that his charge was open to improvement, and they would need to improve to beat the prevailing Slipper favourite Storm Boy. Although Switzerland has not yet raced past 1100m it should not be a problem for him because his dam, an imported Canadian mare, is by Blame (USA) (2006) who won 3 G1s- two at 9f and one at 10F. Switzerland is currently the second favourite for the Slipper.


Switzerland beats Shangri La Express in the 2024 Coolmore Pierro Plate


It is appropriate to now make mention of Pierro after whom the aforementioned race was named. Trained by Gai Waterhouse, he won the 2YO Triple GI Crown in 2012, Golden Slipper, ATC Sires and Champagne St. His son Pierata is the sire of one of the above unbeaten colts Coleman. This is a horse not to be taken lightly!

At stud Pierro produced 3 individual G1 winners when mated with a mare by Redoute’s Choice. Coleman’s dam is by Redoute’s Choice, the “right” cross. She is also inbred. The dam of Redoute’s Choice is by Canny Lad who won the 1990 Slipper. However, the third dam of Coleman, Canny Lass is a full sister to Canny Lad. This is also the same female line of Sepoy who won the 2011 Blue Diamond – Golden Slipper double and of Guelph who won the 2013 ATC Sires Produce and Champagne St double. Coleman is co-favourite for the Blue Diamond to be run next Saturday and needs to win to be a threat to Storm Boy in the Slipper.


Coleman takes out the Lamaro’s Hotel 2024 Chairman’s Stakes


Gai Waterhouse, this time in partnerhip with Adrian Bott, is seeking to win the 2YO G1 Triple Crown with Storm Boy. Gai did it with Pierro and in 2004 with Dance Hero. She only attempts it with exceptional horses. Justify, the sire of Storm Boy sits on top of the above table because of Storm Boy’s win in the Magic Millions 2YO Classic. It would be a bad mistake to think that it is somehow a fluke, a one-off case for Justify being there above Snitzel and so far ahead of I Am Invincible and his sons. Justify last season was the leading first season sire in Australia but he also had his first crop race overseas and it is to their record that we now turn.

Justify’s best performer was City of Troy (b c dam by Galileo) who won all his 3 races each of them at 7F. He began by winning a 2YO maiden at the Curragh by 2.5L. His trainer Aiden O’Brien then took him to Newmarket where he won a G2 2YO by 6.5L. After a 3-month spell, City of Troy returned to Newmarket and won the G1 Dewhurst St by 3.5L. For that win he earned a huge Timeform rating for a 2YO. His trainer has expressed the opinion that City of Troy is the most exciting 2YO horse he has trained to date.

O’Brien also trains Opera Singer (b f dam by Sadler’s Wells) whose record reads: 81211. Her three wins were all at 8F and her two defeats were at 7F. Her second win, by 6.5L was in a G3 (fillies) race at The Curragh. She was then taken to Longchamps for a G1(F) race which she won by 5L.

In the USA, Justify had two fillies which won G1 races. They were Just FYI (b f dam by Street Cry) Record:111 and Hard To Justify (b f dam by Quality Road) Record: 111. Just FYI has one two G1 races restricted to fillies, the first was at Belmont and the second was in the Breeders Cup series held at Santa Anita California last November. The distances of these two races were 8f and 8.5f. Hard To Justify also won a G1 race over 8f in the Breeders Cup series. Hard To Justify won on the turf and Just FYI won on the dirt.

The reason why the records of these horses has been detailed is to show that in one crop Justify has had four individual G1 2YO winners. In one aspect that surpasses even Snitzel’s record in this regard, the best of any other sire in the above list but that thought must be tempered because three of these individual winners won G1 races restricted to fillies and in Australia there is no G1 2YO race restricted to fillies. Perhaps there should be one held late in the season. The distances at which these four G1 wins were achieved suggest that Storm Boy may be a greater certainty in the Sires Produce and the Champagne St than he is for the Slipper. If he does win the Slipper then his opponents should find it even harder to beat him in these races.



Justify(USA) (2015) himself was not a 2YO star. His fame came as a 3YO when he raced six times for six wins including the Triple Crown (Kentucky Derby (10F), Preakness Stakes (9.5F) and Belmont Stakes (12F). He was the 13th horse to have won this Crown but is the only winner of that Crown to have retired undefeated. He was the first horse since Apollo in 1882 to win the Kentucky Derby without having raced as a 2YO. His first race was on February 18, 2018.


Tim Whiffler




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