Who was the best two-year-old in the post Phar Lap era of Australian horse racing? Heading into this week’s Golden Slipper, why not explore some of the greatest Slipper winners of all-time / some of the greatest two-year-olds ever.
The immortal Todman won the first Golden Slipper (1957) by 8 lengths as the 6/1 on favourite ($1.17). He then was beaten in the Sires’ by Tulloch no less, but five days later turned the tables on Tulloch with a six length win in the Champagne in race record time. Todman’s 8 length victory in the Golden Slipper was cheapened at the time due to Tulloch dodging the race. However, Todman, as mentioned, put all the doubters to the sword by demolishing Tulloch in the Champagne by 6 lengths.
A sprinter, that those who saw him insist Black Caviar would not get past; Vain won the 1969 Golden Slipper by 4 lengths as (somehow???) the $5.50 equal favourite. He, like Todman, was beaten in the Sires’, but Vain was not beaten by an immortal like Tulloch, but by Beau Babylon. Those who were at Randwick that day felt Vain’s coat was terrible and the colt looked very agitated in the mounting yard a little bit like Black Caviar did in England. Yes, Vain was beaten, but the next week in the Champagne Vain again found himself up against Beau Babylon and this time he turned the tables on the ¾ length loss in the Sires’ with a 10 length win. Yes 10 lengths. As Phar Lap famously had Carbine’s blood on both sides of his pedigree, Vain appears on both sides of Black Caviar’s family tree.
The Newcastle trained flying machine won the 1977 Golden Slipper as the 11/4 equal favourite by 7 lengths. The margin was very impressive, but the far more historically relevant factor of this win was the time. Luskin Star took 1.7 seconds off the race record. 1.7 seconds off a race record is an extraordinary amount of time. Unlike the previous two ‘best two-year-olds ever’ Luskin Star won the juvenile Triple Crown in Sydney. He won the Sires’ by 3 lengths then the Champagne by 6. Then, just to prove his dominance he won two feature two-year-old races in Brisbane.
As an older horse, Dance Hero was ok without being great. But as a two-year-old his record is almost unmatched. Gai regularly states via her blog or in the press how she feels it is hugely beneficial for two-year-olds to be up and running by Cox Plate day in the spring. Dance Hero followed this model and after a light spring, he won the rich Magic Millions two-year-old Classic on the Gold Coast. He then won the Sydney Triple Crown; in the Slipper Dance Hero beat Charge Forward and the great Alinghi who started favourite. Then in the Sires’ he beat Wager and another future super-sire (like Charge Forward) Fastnet Rock. In the Champagne, Dance Hero again beat Wager and future Cox Plate winner Savabeel. These wins over suburb opposition really show that Dance Hero was a magnificent two-year-old.
The current second best horse in Australia beat the speedy filly Snitzerland in the Golden Slipper last year as well as the favourite and Blue Diamond winner Samaready. In the Sires’ Pierro held off the current third best horse in Australia All Too Hard to record another fantastic victory. In the third leg of the Triple Crown, the Champagne, Pierro beat future Oaks winner Dear Demi. He, like Dance Hero, beat in his Triple Crown triumph, some really good horses. Vain was sent to stud as three-year-old, let’s hope we get at least another season out of Pierro so he can confirm his place in history.
So based on their two-year-old seasons, who was the best? Dance Hero probably has the best record; Luskin Star may have been the most impressive while Pierro may turn out to be the best all-round horse. Vain’s two-year-old exploits were unbelievable, but he was better as a three-year-old. The winner has to be Todman. He was only beaten once as a two-year-old and it was by maybe the best horse since Phar Lap in Tulloch. The fact that Todman turned the tables on Tulloch by six lengths increases his credentials as the best of the best two-year-olds. A six length win over one of the original five Hall Of Fame inductees is the clincher. This may be the best two-year-old win since the induction of the Golden Slipper in 1957 and maybe ever. Todman also in a two-year-old race beat Prince Darius by 11 lengths. Prince Darius is the horse who as a three-year-old pushed Tulloch in all of the legendary three-year-old classic won by T.J. Smith’s best ever horse.
All the listed horses were champions as two-year-olds; Vain and Todman went on to be super as three-year-olds while Pierro seems destined for future greatness. Luskin Star and Dance Hero probably peaked as two-year-olds. Yes, the winner is Todman.
By Zeb Armstrong