Can we use a method of deducing the winner of the Golden Slipper using a carefully defined set of rules? I think we can.

These rules should apply not just for this year, but for any year. Having trawled my way back through the history of this glorious race I have come to some conclusions about what each contender needs within its requirements to win. It’s a tactic I often use to help create a short-list of contenders and it works especially well with the big races.

I regard it as a sound approach that has its foundations in logic and can help to boost your confidence when looking for the winner.

After all, if you discover something in a Slipper contender’s form or pedigree that was not in any previous Slipper winner’s make-up then you would do well to doubt that contender’s chance of winning.

What’s more, if that something happens also to be found in the make-up of many losers of the Golden Slipper then we should be able to scratch that candidate from our calculations completely.

Understand though that this is not a “system” as such. The short-list that these rules produces can sometimes still leave you with as many as three candidates or, like last year, it can leave you with none!

Quite often though it will leave a single candidate and, if it does, you can be pretty sure that he or she will run well. If I was to parallel this method with anything in particular then I’d say it’s a bit like trying to work out the murderer in a whodunnit. Now, it’s time to be Poirot so let’s assemble our method of detection.

1. RACE TIMES
When it comes to analysis of two-year-old horses there can be nothing more useful than taking a look at the race times produced by young juveniles, especially in Australia. In Oz, tracks are flat, even and pretty much all the same (apart from tracks running right-handed or left-handed in the various States) which means there is great consistency in the times produced by most horse races.

Make a note of these race times and the distances associated with them:

1000m – 57.49 seconds
1100m – 64.39 seconds
1200m – 69.99 seconds

These are the race times that a Slipper contender must have equalled or bettered at least once during their career so far. Contenders are highly unlikely to have beaten these times for every start they have made but, over the course of their careers they will have needed to have achieved this feat at least once. It stands to reason that a Group 1 class of animal will have advertised its Group 1 credentials by clocking a decent time.

Having gone through each and every Slipper winner’s form for the last 20 years it became apparent to me that each had put in a good time at least once on the way to winning the Golden Slipper.

They weren’t mind-blowingly outstanding times but they were good ones nonetheless. After sifting through the form I came up with the above list of times as “the line in the sand” that each contender must cross to be considered a genuine selection. Speed is the dominant issue of the Slipper so going fast in a good time should be a prized attribute wouldn’t you agree ?

There are some extra stipulations to this rule.:
•    THE RACE TIME MUST HAVE BEEN ACHIEVED WHEN THE HORSE HAD COME FIRST OR SECOND IN A RACE

And, in addition to this:
•    THE RACE TIME WILL NEED TO HAVE BEEN ACHIEVED IN ANY RACE OTHER THAN A MAIDEN RACE.

Generally, maiden races are not competitive enough to ensure the race time is of any great use.

The information in this section about “race times” should chuck out at least 25 per cent of Slipper “potentials” and sometimes as many as 50 to 60 per cent “potentials”. Quite a few candidates will step up to the “Slipper” and will seem to be good candidates because they have lots of ones and twos in their form.

However, the race times shown above will help to reveal if they are really serious speed merchants.

2. CONTESTING MAIDEN RACES AFTER JANUARY 1
Seems like an odd rule really doesn’t it? Nevertheless, it’s an important rule and one grounded in some sort of reason.

Maiden races are weak affairs and most trainers are usually excellent judges of the potential of a young horse. If a trainer is sending a horse to a maiden race (particularly a provincial maiden), then he or she is doing so because that is the level that they feel will be best suited to the horse.

It’s true that that horse may contest and even win that maiden and go on to win in higher company from that point onwards but most decent trainers will know if they have a “Slipper” horse in their stable by January time so it’s unlikely that they will be putting them in a maiden with only a matter of weeks to go before the Golden Slipper is run.

There were five examples of this in last year’s “Slipper”, including the favourite Casino Prince, and in 2005 the Blue Diamond winner Opportunity was another one whose greatness could be called into question because of its run in a February maiden at Ballarat.

Note also, that if a horse has contested a maiden race before January 1 then this needn’t be an issue. If a trainer is sending a two-year-old to a maiden between September and December then it is likely that they have a well-developed horse who is ready to run but, because there are fewer decent two-year-old races at that time of year, a trainer is forced to place the horse in weak company.

Mind you, the trainer may also have decided that that is the only company the animal is fit for as it was not quite ready for anything else. Even so, a running in a maiden prior to Christmas will still leave sufficient time for the horse to improve to “Slipper” standard by Easter.

3. LAST START PERFORMANCE
The final performance of a Slipper candidate before it runs in the Slipper itself can be highly revealing as to whether it will perform well in the big race. Not surprisingly, to win one of the most competitive races of the year, a horse will need to be at the peak of its form.

If its last start was in any way sub-standard then it is unlikely it will perform well in the Golden Slipper. Every winner of the Golden Slipper, stretching right back to the first winner Todman, had come either 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th at their last start. In fact, 37 Slipper winners had been 1st, six had been 2nd, four had been 3rd and two had been 4th (including last year’s winner Miss Finland). The trend is obvious so we should rule out any horse that has not achieved this minimum standard.

In fact, we can go further than this. No Slipper winner had on its last start lost a Group 3 race or contested a Listed or Handicap race. Contenders should, therefore, only be considered if they have come 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th at their last start in either a Group 1 or Group 2 race – or if they have come from winning a Group 3 race.

Another stipulation for the “Last Start Performance” will be that the horse will not have been beaten by more than four lengths in a Group 1 (i.e. the Blue Diamond) or more than three lengths in a Group 2. Even allowing for discrepancies in track condition between the last start and the conditions found on Slipper day itself, a horse is unlikely to put in such a poor performance prior to winning a Golden Slipper.

The reason the worst losing margins are defined by these distances is because I believe that they amount to what I would call a “sub-pattern” display. Or, in other words, it is a performance that would not have won a Group or Listed event.

To sum up, any horse not performing well within the major trials for the Slipper will almost certainly fail in the Golden Slipper itself. Incidentally, if you’re thinking that the sub-rules surrounding “Last Start Performance” wouldn’t exclude many “live” contenders then you’d be wrong. Churchill Downs was on the 2nd line of betting in 2006 but was 7th at his last start and Secret Land, the \$4 favourite in 2002, had only contested a Listed race at his last start.

In 2000 the favourite was Assertive Lad who, while lining up on Slipper day, had just lost his Group 3 trial having never actually won a pattern race of any sort.

4. CAREER PERFORMANCE
When we look over the profiles of winners from the last 20 years we can see a number of things that encompass all of them. It’s probably better if I list them.

Prior to winning the Golden Slipper the winner will have:

• Succeeded in winning a race in pattern company (i.e Group 1, 2, 3 or Listed races).
• Succeeded in winning a race (other than a maiden) at a distance of 1100m or more.
• Succeeded in coming 1st or 2nd in one of its last two starts.
• Succeeded in winning a race that contained 10 runners or more.
• Raced within the last 28 days.

While these are behaviours that are common to every Slipper winner’s form there are also a number of behaviours which are missing from every Slipper winner’s form.

Slipper winners will NOT:

• Be maidens.
• Have come last at any point in their career.
• Have contested handicap company in March or April.

One last point to note about a Slipper winner’s career is its consistency – and particularly after it has won its first race. Each Slipper winner has shown that after it has won its first race it will not appear out of the first two placings (1st or 2nd) for more than two consecutive starts.

5. BARRIERS
Two well-known trainers have made their thoughts known on the subject of barriers and both of them are correct.
John Hawkes has often stated that cushy runs win big races and inside gates are the way do it (Darren Beadman is never declared for a horse before the barrier draw is announced). The other trainer, Bart Cummings, has stated that if horses are good enough they will win from anywhere. I don’t contest either of these viewpoints as it is plain that a good barrier will help a contender enormously – as long as it suits the horse’s racing style.

Most budding sprinters attack their races and so a low-numbered barrier is best. A horse with swooper’s style can survive being drawn from 12 or wider but even they will be up against it from a wide berth (swoopers also tend to suffer from barrier 1).

It’s worth noting that the only winners from barriers out wide were fillies with a weight concession and a colt that encountered heavy ground thus slowing the field down immeasurably. I would say that if track conditions are good then winning from wide becomes a very difficult task. You must have a very good reason for selecting a horse drawn in barriers 12 to 16. Incidentally, no horse has won from barrier 13. Unlucky for some!

6. BREEDING
The final point of the checklist would be to check to see how your Slipper candidate is bred. Pedigrees are pretty vital when it comes to assessing a horse’s potential to win a race and never more so than when you’re scrutinising a Group 1 race.

Regular readers will know that I’m keen on using the dosage system to try to get a feel for the way a horse is bred. If we a take a look at the dosage profiles of Golden Slipper winners stretching back over the past 20 years then you will be given a set of parameters within which you can work.

You can look up dosage profiles of any horse you like using:   www.pedigreequery.com (you don’t need membership to see the horse’s details – simply type in the name of the horse you require). After you’ve entered the details of the horse you want to look at you’ll be given a five generation display of the horse’s pedigree and its dosage details at the top of the page. The dosage details will show the Dosage Profile (DP), consisting of five numbers, and the Dosage Index of the horse. ?A dosage profile will look like this DP = 6-2-13-3-0.

Take special interest in the two numbers on the far left, in this case the six and two. These figures denote the amount of inherited speed that a horse may have gained. If history is used to judge a potential candidate then these two numbers must total at least four points. In our example the speed points total eight (6+2) so our example could still be considered as a Slipper candidate. Next take a look at the Dosage Index (DI) and see what number is declared there. The number will be one number followed by a decimal point followed by two more numbers.

An example would be 1.53. Now, if you see a number declared for a Dosage Index that is BELOW 1.40 then your Slipper candidate will be outside the DI range dictated by Slipper winners for the last 20 years and beyond. If this number is higher than 1.40 then your candidate can still be considered as a possible winner of the Slipper.

This small amount of pedigree information will help your short-list get shorter. Incidentally, I would, of course, suggest that you do your breeding analysis after going through points 1 – 5 first. It will save time.

CONCLUSION
It’d be nice to think that all this hard work will yield a single answer to the Golden Slipper come raceday but don’t be disappointed if the short-list still contains three or four runners.

You will need to use your own racing knowledge to try to make a single solid selection or you might want to try to mix your short-list into a few exotic bets. An example of where I’ve used my own racing knowledge was a couple of years ago when my short-list contained two horses from the Hawkes stable. It won’t surprise you to learn that I deselected the horse that Darren Beadman rejected.

While Mr Beadman’s first choice selection may not be the eventual winner you can be pretty certain that the horse he’s rejecting won’t win. In the meantime, I hope the rules contained within this article will help to guide you to this year’s winner of the Golden Slipper.

If you take a look at this issue’s new feature “Pedigree Pointers”, I’ll be taking a look at a candidate that may well be touted as a Golden Slipper “possible” come raceday.

By Julian Mould

PRACTICAL PUNTING – FEBRUARY 2007