It didn’t take long for Chad Schofield to work out that the filly by Justify he was riding out at Warwick Farm had an aura about her.
She was named Learning To Fly and he couldn’t have known back before she was Learning To Fly that she’d go unbeaten into Saturday’s Group 1 $5 million Longines Golden Slipper (1200m). But it doesn’t surprise him either.
“Just the way she felt, she oozed class right from the beginning,’’ Schofield said of his first impressions.
“She covered a lot of ground in her action and she had this presence about her that good horses have.
“She ran second in her first barrier trial and when she came back she just went to a whole new level.”
And, quite ominously, while she’s the only unbeaten horse in the 2023 Slipper, Schofield is confident what she’s shown so far is only the beginning.
Learning To Fly made her debut, with quite a bit of expectation around her, in the Group 3 Widden Stakes (1100m) in January where she accounted for Steel City.
She had to overcome the outside barrier in the $2 million Inglis Millennium, which she did with a big finish, and win a dogfight with Facile to take out the Group 2 Reisling Stakes (1200m) at Randwick two weeks ago.
Schofield had a spin on the filly at trackwork on Tuesday and said that ability to adapt will stand her in great stead for what is set to be a brutal Slipper.
“There’s always a frantic tempo but my filly is bombproof and she will be very hard to beat,’’ he said.
“She’s been trained and set for this race being the biggest two-year-old race in the world. I don’t think we’ve seen the best of her this prep so hopefully we see it this weekend.
“We were confident heading into her debut in the Widden Stakes off her work and trials that she’d win and thankfully she’s remained unbeaten. Hopefully she can keep that record intact.
“She’s incredibly versatile. She sat off them in her trials, she led the other day. She’s come from last, back and wide, swooping.
“She’s done it all in only three runs. It’s really nice for a jockey to head in a race with a horse you know can just be wherever you want to be and relax, pick up, and dash.”
Learning To Fly, one of two horses in the Slipper to carry the Coolmore colours, was a $6 chance with TAB on Wednesday.
The Reisling has been a handy guide to Slipper glory over the years with Estijaab (2018) the latest to achieve that double and trainer Annabel Neasham said the filly will have her chance from barrier four.
She said it’s a huge advantage to be able to conserve that bit of energy and not be dictated to by wide barriers as she was in the Millennium.
“We’ve never been able to ride her how we’ve really wanted to,’’ Neasham said.
“The main thing is to let her be where she’s comfortable. They win from all barriers but it helps having that lowish draw, it usually helps you do less work to get into a spot you want to be.
“It’s by no means over yet, there’s still a long way to go, but a nice more straightforward draw does make it a bit easier.”
– Racing NSW