Trainer Chris Waller has produced his two leading Golden Slipper hopes at Rosehill with the desired results after a couple of anxious moments.
Performer had to fight hard for a photo-finish win in Saturday’s Canonbury Stakes, while Fiesta ($3.90) had to change direction to make her run for victory in the Widden Stakes.
As well as coming from Sydney’s premier stable the pair had another common denominator, jockey Kerrin McEvoy, who returned from injury on Friday night.
After coming from midfield in Saturday’s Listed 1100m race, $1.70 favourite Performer ran down Stratosphere ($9) and looked as if he would win comfortably.
But it turned into a close thing for the Golden Slipper $8 second favourite, with Stratosphere kicking back on his inside to be beaten a nose.
“The last three hops I was a bit worried. He might have peaked a little bit,” McEvoy said.
Waller was also a little concerned but said Performer, the winner of the Breeders’ Plate in September, was still learning.
“I was happy at the 100 metres but concerned the last five,” Waller said.
“But he is still learning and is where I want him to be.
“We will stick to the plan to give him a barrier trial and then run him in the Todman Stakes two weeks before the Slipper.”
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In contrast, Fiesta will run again in four weeks in the Sweet Embrace Stakes.
She wore blinkers in the Widden to help her focus but her cause was not helped when she couldn’t get clear.
Once McEvoy found the gap, Fiesta picked up again to catch the leader Adamina ($31) and beat her by a short neck.
“It was good to see her fight back after getting into a scrimmage,” Waller said.
“Mid-race clashes can take a lot out of them but she has done well.”
McEvoy was not keen to make comparisons from the point of view of the Golden Slipper on March 24 with Performer remaining steady in the market and Fiesta firming from $51 to $17.
“You can’t pigeonhole Performer,” he said.
“He doesn’t give me the normal Slipper feel.
“I don’t think he’s just a speed horse. There are so many avenues for him.
“With the filly I think if she’d been beaten you still would have been happy with the run after what happened in the race.
“The races were run at different tempos so it’s hard but I would be happy with both heading to the Slipper.”