Gary Portelli is now a dual Golden Slipper winning trainer thanks to a brilliant upset in the $5 million two-years-old classic on Saturday by his progressive filly Fireburn.

Fireburn | Photo: Steve Hart | Horseracing.com.au

Fireburn was brilliant winning the 2022 Golden Slipper Stakes for Gary Portelli in Sydney. Photo: Steve Hart.

Last seen winning the Group 2 Sweet Embrace Stakes over subsequent Magic Night winner She’s Extreme in late February, the progressive daughter of Rebel Dane was too good for her rivals fresh in this year’s Group 1 Golden Slipper Stakes (1200m) at Rosehill Gardens.

“You could see her building and going through her revs, what a finish. Unbelievable. Rebel Dane, who’d have thought he would throw a Golden Slipper winner?” Portelli told the media after the victory. 

“Congratulations to (managing owner) Louis Mihalyka and the team. I am forever thankful to them for giving me Rebel Dane to start with and then a daughter of his and it just continued the great story.”

Jockey Brenton Avdulla picked up his second victory in the world’s richest race for juveniles following that on Estijaab in 2018, while Portelli had won the year prior in 2017 with another gun filly She Will Reign.

“He has gone to a new level,” Portelli said of Avdulla.

“Sometimes you have an injury and he’s had a situation where he has probably looked at his career and he’s potentially had his lifestyle taken away from him and they come back and realise what they’ve got.

“It’s the greatest sport. It’s the highs and lows, you’ve got to put up with the lows and hope the highs come back and here he has come back from a serious injury and won two Group Ones in a month, so it just goes to show, don’t give up.”

It was the fillies on top of the Slipper again this season with Fireburn overcoming a horror run to fly home the closing stages and win running away by a commanding two and a half lengths.

“No it’s crazy. I said to the Mrs I wouldn’t cry after the first week but it’s very special obviously,” winning jockey Avdulla said. 

“It’s hard to get rides any time of the year but when you’re off a setback and trying to get the weight under control.

“Gary gave me plenty of faith with his support all my career and him and his connections put me on her. She gave me a great feel Tuesday. 

“To come out and win a Slipper again, I thought it was going to be hard to get one but now I’ve got two in three years.” 

There was a scrimmage at the 700m where Fireburn got knocked sideways and shuffled back, but Avdulla was able to straighten her back-up again and weave his way through the field.

In the lead was Kacy Fogden‘s previously undefeated son of Snitzel, Canonbury – Silver Slipper double winning colt Best Of Bordeaux ($12).

After doing all the work up front, he was brave in defeat finishing second after Fireburn got off the fence and cut across to lead him home.

“Very frustrating yet very proud,” Sam Clipperton aboard Best Of Bordeaux said after running second.

“He’s done a wonderful job this preparation. He’s going to run 1400m this horse when he grows into himself. Going to be a lovely three-year-old.

“Must say congratulations to Kacy Fogden. She’s done a brilliant job with this horse.”

In third also doing herself no injustice was the Ciaron Maher & David Eustace-trained Magic Millions 2YO Classic winning filly, beaten favourite Coolangatta, who finished ahead of the Blue Diamond champ Daumier ($21).

“Really sad. She tried her heart out. Got into a beautiful spot. Let down but the ground got her. A terrific filly and really proud of her,” Coolangatta’s jockey James McDonald said.

McDonald finished the day with three Group 1 seconds and the seven-length Rosehill Guineas victory aboard Anamoe having also placed runner-up on Verry Elleegant in the Ranvet Stakes and Colette in the George Ryder.

Following the Golden Slipper result, Portelli declared Fireburn as the best two-year-old going around and said she would only improve as a three-year-old next season.

“She has been the biggest improver in the stable that I’ve ever seen. I said this week, she has peaked so well. This morning, I had to go and work her. I was going to give her an easy day but she was too fresh, so I had to go and give her some work and she has turned up here and smashed them,” he said. 

“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.” 


About The Author

Lucy Henderson

Lucy is an experienced horse racing journalist that has been a crucial member of the horseracing.com.au team for the better part of a decade. She has taken great delight in covering champion mares Black Caviar and Winx throughout their careers and always has a soft spot for a winning filly.