Fireburn delivers Gary Portelli second Golden Slipper

A jockey on the comeback from serious injury, a trainer who gets limited opportunities and an unfashionably bred filly have combined to deliver an unlikely Golden Slipper fairytale.

Fireburn has overcome a significant bump shortly after the start to capture Saturday’s $5 million Golden Slipper, giving Brenton Avdulla his second Group 1 win since returning from a neck injury suffered in a race fall last August.

The filly was one of two runners for trainer Gary Portelli, along with Sejardan, and he feared neither could win after both copped interference – until he saw Fireburn starting to weave through over the final 300m.

“I thought, ‘we are out of play, this is not our year’,” Portelli said.

“Then I saw her colours starting to sneak through and when she decides she is going to get you, she gets you. She has such a big motor.”

It was Portelli’s second Golden Slipper after She Will Reign in 2017, a wonderful effort by a trainer who doesn’t get many opportunities with horses bought at the top end of the market.

Fireburn is a case in point, being by no-frills sire Rebel Dane, who Portelli also trained.

“Rebel Dane, who’d have thought he would throw a Golden Slipper winner?” Portelli said.

“She has been the biggest improver in the stable that I’ve ever seen.

“She is the best two-year-old in Australia right now and I’ve got no doubt she will be the best three-year-old next year.”

Fireburn also gave Avdulla his second Golden Slipper after his success on Estijaab four years ago and capped a remarkable rise back to the top.

Avdulla missed the entire spring carnival and spent six months on the sidelines with a neck injury and has been working hard to regain a footing in the competitive Sydney jockeys’ ranks.

“I said to the ‘Mrs’, I wouldn’t cry after the first week (back) but it’s very special obviously,” Avdulla said.

Fireburn ($12) scored by 2-1/2 lengths over Best Of Bordeaux ($11), who just failed in his bid to lead throughout and give young trainer Kacy Fogden a dream result.

Jockey Sam Clipperton was gutted not to win but proud of the horse.

“Very frustrating yet very proud,” Clipperton said.

“He’s done a wonderful job this preparation. He’s going to run 1400m this horse when he grows into himself.”

James Mcdonald was likewise rapt with the performance of Coolangatta ($3.70 fav), who was having her first start since the Magic Millions Classic in January and fought doggedly to hold third, a long neck behind Best Of Bordeaux.

“She tried her heart out. Got into a beautiful spot, let down but the ground got her,” McDonald said.

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