What a conundrum Chris Waller has created with his bold decision to run Golden Slipper winner Shinzo first-up over 1400 metres in the $1 million Golden Rose at Rosehill on Saturday.
History weighs heavily against Shinzo but there is no doubt Waller – aided and abetted by considerable input from the three-year-old’s major owners Coolmore Stud – had a lot more to consider before setting the valuable colt on a radical spring path that is projected to include the modern day pinnacle of the turf world, next month’s $20 million Everest at Randwick.
Foremost in the minds of the Coolmore hierarchy and their partners would have been the need to protect and enhance Shinzo’s immense stud value. As Shinzo is a Golden Slipper-winning son of Snitzel with a place reserved for him on the Coolmore roster, you would expect Tom Magnier and co to have a big say in just where and when the colt runs through his 3YO season.
From a betting perspective what intrigues me is the preparation Waller has given Shinzo since he came back into work in June. It is not the usual Waller program to give a colt of such high class and value two barrier trials in the space of 11 days in early August and then wait 45 days before sending him to the races.
Sure, Shinzo has since made a race day appearance in an exhibition gallop and Waller says he had an unofficial jump out at Rosehill last week. But as Waller has previously won the Golden Rose twice with race fit runners (Zoustar/The Autumn Sun) it’s fair to question if tackling 1400m first-up in the Golden Rose was his original intention with Shinzo when the colt is yet to race beyond 1200m.
I’m not one to second guess a champion trainer like Waller but I suspect he would have preferred to start Shinzo at Rosehill on September 9 in the Run To The Rose – the 1200m race that has produced eight of the last 11 Golden Rose winners – to ensure he had the colt primed for a testing 1400m on Saturday.
As the stable has made no public admission of a hiccup in Shinzo’s training it would seem Coolmore had the final say, mindful that there is a long list of Golden Slipper victors that failed to win as three-year-olds.
It’s easy to conclude that Coolmore has taken the view that if the colt is to be beaten this spring it will look better on his stud CV for him to go down in a million dollar Group One event like the Golden Rose rather than a race of much lesser value and prestige.
Fair enough, but setting Shinzo for a first-up win in the Golden Rose has presented the colt with enormous historical challenges.
Since the incarnation of the Golden Rose in 2003 no horse has won the race first-up from a spell. As he is also striving to be the first colt to land the Golden Slipper/Golden Rose double it adds to the pressure Waller and his fly-in jockey Ryan Moore will be feeling in the build up to Saturday.
Moore, arguably the world’s best rider (with apologies to the James McDonald fan club), is Coolmore’s go to jockey for any big race worldwide.
He did the job admirably in the autumn when he jetted in to land the Golden Slipper on Shinzo and with McDonald – Waller’s first choice rider – currently sidelined by injury it was a no brainer for Coolmore to import Moore to fill the void.
Moore’s previous experience on the colt will be invaluable on Saturday, especially as he has to overcome barrier 10 from Rosehill’s awkward 1400m starting point with the rail out 2 metres.
In the Golden Slipper Shinzo drew the rails gate and Ryan didn’t have to go around another horse. On Saturday he will need to apply all his skill from a notorious starting point where horses jumping from gates 1-5 win 50 percent of the races.
Waller is double handed in the Golden Rose with his other top shelf colt Militarize, a dual G1 winner last season of the ATC Sires’ Produce and Champagne Stakes when he was ridden by another international superstar Joao Moreira.
Militarize was well beaten behind Shinzo in the Golden Slipper but those wins ensure he will poll well against his stablemate for Champion 2YO honours when the gongs for last season are handed out in Perth in November.
Interestingly Waller has given Militarize, another colt with a super high stud value, a traditional prep for the Golden Rose. He followed up two trials with a closing fifth in the Run To The Rose when a length covered the first six horses across the line.
That result on face value suggests Shinzo, based on Timeform ratings, may have won or at least been highly competitive in the Run To The Roses.
The scenario of Moreira also returning to Australia to ride Militarize from his low draw in barrier 2 only adds more fuel to the conundrum surrounding Shinzo’s first-up chances in the Golden Rose.
Shinzo’s early odds of $6.00 after the field was declared on Tuesday are generous for a colt of his undoubted class. However history, his unusual preparation and wide barrier are key factors that will definitely play against him.
SHINZO CURRENT ODDS – $6.00
VERDICT (BET OR LAY) – LAY