Portelli pair get the gun Golden Slipper draw

It was almost five years ago to the day that the Gary Portelli-trained She Will Reign swept down the middle of the Rosehill straight to claim the Golden Slipper in trying conditions, and the Warwick Farm-based conditioner has two live hopes of repeating the dose this weekend.

Portelli will saddle up Sebring colt Sejardan and Rebel Dane filly Fireburn in this Saturday’s $5 million feature with both two-year-olds being treated kindly by the barrier gods.

Sejardan, who will be piloted by Jason Collett has drawn well in gate seven, but will come into barrier five if the emergencies do not gain a start. Fireburn, with Brenton Avdulla in the irons, has drawn gate two but will jump from the inside alley barring any scratchings.

Both horses come into the Group 1 in fine form with Sejardan’s only ‘failure’ coming in the Millennium when caught three and four wide the trip with no cover to still fight on and finish a gutsy third. Fireburn was fourth on debut before stringing three wins together on the bounce, including a strong victory in the Group 2 Sweet Embrace last time out. The second horse in that race, She’s Extreme, has since franked the form by winning the Group 3 Magic Night last Saturday.

Whilst Portelli always seems to have a good youngster in the barn, he doesn’t necessarily spend the most at the yearling sales.

“We try not to buy the most expensive yearling, we just look for athletes. That’s one thing I learned a lot from Clarry Connors and John Hawkes early on when I came to Sydney,” Portelli said at Tuesday’s Golden Slipper barrier draw.

“I learned what type of horse you need that goes early, and then more importantly how to train them once you do get them.

“Fireburn was a homebred and Sejardan (already a winner of over $1 million in earnings) was $160,000.”

It has been smooth sailing for both of Portelli’s juveniles this campaign, a situation that isn’t always the case with precarious two-year-olds. Most horses don’t get up and going at this age and if they do they invariably go sore or need more time to mature.

“Both horses are right at their peak going into the race. I couldn’t be happier, their preparations have been faultless,” Portelli said.

“The fact that we’ve had a faultless preparation scares me for the next three or four days because I’m worried something is going to happen. It’s out of your control.

“They had a good gallop over 800m this morning, finished off strong. Both riders had a throttle hold on them going to the line.”

As to any advice he will be giving Collett or Avdulla for Saturday, Portelli is happy to leave it up to the Group 1 winning hoops. It was only last weekend that Collett tasted Group 1 success on Lighthouse in the Coolmore Classic. Avdulla is best known for his all the way win on rank outsider Lasqueti Spirit in the VRC Oaks when famously doing a bow at the winning post.

With further rain predicted throughout the week, Portelli is hopeful that the surface will play evenly for all contenders. After a torrential downpour over the past fortnight, the Sydney tracks have been holding up well given the circumstances.

“I just want a fair track, I don’t care if it’s dry or wet,” Portelli said.

“I’d rather win a Slipper and say that everyone had their chance than if you won it because it was a wet track.

“I’d like the track to be fair so the best horse can win.”

Rosehill Gardens will play host to a bumper ten-race card this Saturday with no less than five Group 1’s on the schedule.

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