A wide draw and a heavy track hasn’t dented the confidence of Houtzen’s connections ahead of the world’s richest juvenile race, the Golden Slipper at Rosehill on Saturday.
Toby Edmond’s filly is undefeated in four starts and is the $4.40 favourite in local markets for the A$3.5 million Group One, but the wet conditions in Sydney add an element of uncertainty to the race.
Houzten is at the top of betting after an all-the-way win in the Magic Millions 2YO Classic on the Gold Coast before lumping 63kg in a devastating four-length win at Eagle Farm last start.
She’s won twice on a soft surface in Queensland and handled the Rosehill circuit in a hit-out on Tuesday morning, but now she also has to overcome barrier 16.
Despite the challenges, jockey Jeff Lloyd is feeling good and will work out if he plans to lead, as has been Houtzen’s custom, or sit off the pace once he sees how the track is playing.
“I don’t have any fears really, I know I’m on a very nice horse, I know she’s very straightforward, she’s not going to get upset by the buzz on the day,” Lloyd said.
“I just want to come up with a plan closer to the race and if it all comes off, that would be great.
“If everything fell into place with only 54.5kg on her back after carrying 63kg she’s going to think she’s running loose.
“I’m very confident as long as things fall into place, which is always tricky from a wide barrier.”
David Hayes’ Blue Diamond winner Catchy, to be ridden by Craig Williams, is the second pick at $5.50, while newly appointed Hong Kong trainer Michael Freedman will saddle up Frolic and Teaspoon, who was meant to be ridden by Zac Purton before an inner ear infection forced him to stay at Sha Tin.
There are five Group Ones on Golden Slipper day, but the George Ryder Stakes stands out as the world’s highest-rated mare Winx chases her 16th straight win.
She’s a $1.18 chance to win her 10th major, but comes up against some quality rivals including Chairman’s Sprint Prize hero Chautauqua and three-time Group One winner Le Romain.
“It’s bringing together a lot of in-form horses and great to see,” Winx’s trainer Chris Waller said.
“We are certainly not running away from any challengers – we never have and never will. It’s good to see so many headline horses in there.
“The challenge will come one day and I’m sure she’ll be in for the fight when it does come. It could very well be in the Ryder.”
The Ranvet Stakes, the Rosehill Guineas and The Galaxy are the other Group Ones on the card and all will be covered by the Jockey Club’s six-race simulcast, which gets underway at 11.05am.