With nominations now in place for the 2020 Longines Golden Slipper, every owner and breeder can be forgiven for daydreaming about Australian racing and breeding’s most coveted prize.
Joe Heather, General Manager at Telemon in Queensland, knows better than most the impact of the race we simply call “The Slipper”.
“This time last year we were eagerly anticipating reports about Sidestep’s first crop and I remember looking up the Slipper nominations when they came out.
“I spoke to the boss (Dan Fletcher) and said ‘It’s not looking too good. There’s 2,500 entries and Sidestep only has 5.
“He just said, ‘Don’t worry about it mate, we only need one’.”
The fateful “one” for Telemon is superstar filly Kiamichi.
Blessed to come through a Godolphin system where every horse is given the same chance to develop into a champion, James Cummings saw a toughness and an eagerness to please in Kiamichi that convinced him the filly could win a Golden Slipper.
She has become the flag-bearer of a first crop that saw Sidestep crowned Champion First Season sire.
Remarkably he is also a runaway leader in the first season list in his shuttle jurisdiction of France where he has four winners and two stakes horses from just nine runners.
Standing at Telemon for $22,000, this season Sidestep will for the first time in his fledgling career have a large, high-quality harem of mares.
Heather admits the modern breeding landscape dictates that weight of numbers can be what keeps a horse in the headlines.
Whilst his rising young star has given away a significant head-start to his peers in that regard, he is confident that in the long term Sidestep will rise to the very top.
“There’s simply not as many Sidestep runners compared to his competitors.
“To give you one example, Deep Field, who is a horse we have a lot of respect for from a great farm, has covered 860-odd mares, whereas Sidestep is at just over 300 at the same point in their careers.
“So from our point of view we’re measuring their progress by different benchmarks.
“When we look behind the raw numbers, we believe we have the most exciting young stallion in the country.”
After the recent Rosehill trials (19 July), Heather spoke to Head of Darley Stallions Alastair Pulford.
“Kiamichi had gone enormous and they had another unraced Sidestep trial really nicely.
“I think that may have been why we were asked to make a little more room for Darley mares – we think James (Cummings) has asked them to send more Sidesteps!” Heather recounts with a broad grin.
Looking ahead to next year’s Golden Slipper, the Queensland horseman is daring to dream once more.
“We’re giving away another big start because of his numbers. Ironically this time around he’s found himself with six nominations, one more than last year.
“Godolphin has one in their ‘early group’ named Oregon Trail who we’ll be watching closely. Maybe lightning can strike twice?”