Before March 18 there were only a few trophies missing from Chris Waller's illustrious cabinet and the iconic Golden Slipper Stakes (G1) was one that had previously eluded the champion trainer. However, he finally added the juvenile contest to his CV when the Coolmore-raced colt Shinzo produced an impressive display to win the coveted Rosehill group 1.
The impeccably bred son of Snitzel secured a ballot-free entry into the group 1 when he landed the Pago Pago Stakes (G3) the previous weekend, having placed third on debut in the Canonbury Stakes (G3) before running second in the Skyline Stakes (G2) Feb. 25.
The race was billed as a clash of the titans with powerhouse operations Godolphin and Coolmore, as well as Newgate Farm and partners all well-represented and in the end it turned out to be Godolphin versus Coolmore, with the latter coming home with the spoils.
Shinzo was ridden by visiting jockey Ryan Moore, who had already tasted group 1 glory earlier in the afternoon aboard the William Haggas-trained Dubai Honour in the Ranvet Stakes (G1), and he was happy to bide his time on Shinzo in the early part of the contest.
As they turned in Moore produced Shinzo up the rail and his mount showed an impressive burst of speed to defeat dual group 2 winner Cylinder by just over a length. King's Gambit, who got very hot in the preliminaries, finished strongly to come home another length and a quarter away in third.
However, the race was not without its drama as Chad Scholfield was dislodged from Annabel Neasham's previously unbeaten filly Learning To Fly at the 400-meter mark and caused interference to the winner's stablemate Lazzago, leading Kerrin McEvoy to pull the filly up. Both horses walked away from the incident unscathed and Schofield was also reported to have incurred no issues after the fall.
The result was one of mixed emotions for Coolmore's Tom Magnier, a majority owner of Shinzo and Learning To Fly, who returned lame but seemingly without a major injury scare.
"It's hard to enjoy the moment," Magnier said. "I'm just hoping Learning To Fly and Chad Schofield are OK. I feel for Annabel.
"But Golden Slippers are so hard to win. This is the race we wanted to win more than any other this year.
"We asked Ryan Moore to come out and ride Shinzo at short notice and what can you say about him? Thank God for Ryan Moore, he is on another level, he is so patient."
Moore has won group 1s all over the world, but a victory in the Golden Slipper was not lost on the jockey who now has 170 elite-level wins to his name.
"Growing up, the Golden Slipper was always one of the big races that everyone knew around the world," Moore said. "Maybe times have changed, but it was always the premier race in New South Wales."
With this Slipper win, Waller has now completed Australia's 'grand slam' having won the Cox Plate (G1), Caulfield Cup (G1), and Melbourne Cup (G1), and the emotion of completing this final piece of the puzzle clearly meant a lot to the trainer.
"I've watched more Golden Slippers than anyone my age, from a young age, some from New Zealand, some from Kembla Grange, some from Newcastle, I guess one or two sitting at home," said Waller.
"I know it's a big deal. Emotionally, it means a lot to me, simple as that. But I'm not here to prove things to anyone."
With the victory, Shinzo became the fourth horse to win the Pago Pago Stakes en route to glory in the Slipper, with Stratum in 2005 the most recent to complete the double.
Shinzo, a homebred for Coolmore, is out of the dual group 1-winning champion Samaready, whose elite-level victories are spearheaded by her win in the Blue Diamond Stakes (G1). She also finished third in the Golden Slipper in 2012.
Samaready, herself a half sister to group 2 winner Night War, was bought by Magnier for AU$1.8 million at the 2020 edition of the Inglis Chairman's Sale when carrying Shinzo in utero. The daughter of More Than Ready is already the dam of Magic Millions 2YO Classic winner and group 3 scorer Exhilarates. She missed to Justify in 2021 and was exported to Ireland in February 2022. She is now in the U.S. where she has been covered again by Justify.