No one has proven more adept at whisking horses into the Golden Slipper, but even Gai Waterhouse reckons it might be a blessing that Nayeli and Echo Prince dodged the world’s richest race for two-year-olds.
Waterhouse’s return to the races will coincide with the top female stock at Tulloch Lodge – Nayeli and Sweet Idea – launching a dual stakes assault at Randwick on Saturday.
Nayeli is the ace in Waterhouse’s Rosebud hand, complemented by smart Hawkesbury maiden winner Echo Prince, which plunges into listed company at only his second start.
Nayeli has not raced since weakening badly in the $1 million Blue Diamond in February, but it hasn’t stopped Waterhouse slapping another group 1 target in front of the filly.
“She’s exactly like Cheeky Choice who I won the Flight Stakes with  and she’s just as talented,” Waterhouse said. “She’s got terrific speed and will be aimed on that path in the spring.
“I think if they can get to the Slipper … that’s the whole point of two-year-old training. She didn’t quite get there as she trained off. I must say I don’t see any disadvantage in her not going to the Slipper.
“I can’t fault her. I think she’s a quality three-year-old and under the handicap conditions I think she can still win the race.”
Nayeli will shoulder 58 kilograms with Tommy Berry up for her first-up assignment, just a kilogram shy of topweight and doubtful starter Inkling.
At the other end of the spectrum is Echo Prince, who will carry just 54kg as one of three winners on debut to tackle The Rosebud at their second start.
While Waterhouse opted not to persevere with Nayeli for the Slipper, it was not even a consideration for Echo Prince, which was still months away from making it to the races.
“He was a horse that always needed a bit more time and I was happy to give that to him,” Waterhouse said. “If he can win or be placed in a stakes race it will add enormous value to him as a colt. He’s an exciting son of Casino Prince who was very courageous in winning on debut and I think he can run a race against some of these better-performed horses.”
While Echo Prince is yet to make his mark, Waterhouse is under no doubt where Missile Stakes contender Sweet Idea ranks before she takes on the boys in the group 2 feature.
The Magic Millions Guineas and Light Fingers winner will be gunning for that elusive group 1 win this spring after coming close in last year’s Golden Slipper and this year’s Coolmore Classic.
“I think she’s one of the best mares in Australia,” Waterhouse said. “She’ll be set on a Myer Classic path to get down to Melbourne, but she’s definitely going well enough to win on Saturday.
“I think she gets in well at the weights [56.5kg] and she has always run well fresh before, so why can’t she do it again? She might go to Warwick Stakes after Saturday, which will certainly suit on her home track, or I might send her to Melbourne for the Memsie Stakes.”
The latter option could mean a potential clash with stablemate The Offer, which is “a couple of weeks away” from heading to Melbourne for a Caulfield-Melbourne cups campaign.
As for his trainer?
“I’m ready to rock ‘n’ roll,” Waterhouse said of a month-long freshen-up. “Mark’s [foreman Mark Newnham] doing an excellent job and the whole team is doing an excellent job. I haven’t been that far away and I’m on the blower every second, so it’s worked well.”
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