There are a few things we know for certain even before this year’s Blue Diamond and Golden Slipper are run.
Firstly, Brazen Beau is undoubtedly the hottest young sire in the country and one who will go into a whole new league should his first-crop son Tassort win the Golden Slipper.
Secondly, Exceed And Excel is the best sire of two-year-olds in Australia and has been since he was crowned Champion first-season sire in 2007/08. He is also the broodmare sire of Tassort.
Thirdly, Lonhro, who is already a member of the elite 'Golden Slipper sire club', could quite easily provide the one-two in the Blue Diamond with Lyre and Athiri well fancied in pre-post markets, and for good reason.
TASSORT (Brazen Beau - Essaouira). 2018 Golden Gift at Rosehill Gardens
Lohnro is not out of play for a second Golden Slipper either, given that his daughter Amercement won the G3 Widden Stakes earlier this month and was unlucky not to have won the Gimcrack Stakes on debut. Talk about a run! Overreach (Exceed And Excel) and Mossfun went onto win the Slipper after their respective Widden Stakes successes, so the precedent has been well and truly set for Amercement in 2019.
Godolphin's utter dominance of the Lonhro Plate continues, winning the Slipper marker for a fourth time in just six years, this time with Bivouac. The James Cummings-trained colt became Exceed And Excel's 155th individual Stakes winner, beating the previously unbeaten Time To Reign.
That said, not every Blue Diamond contender or Golden Slipper hopeful wears the royal blue, nor are they progeny of one of the above-mentioned sires.
Take Dawn Passage, for example. He is housed with six-time Golden Slipper-winning trainer Gai Waterhouse (in partnership with Adrian Bott) and lost no admirers with his third in the inaugural $2 million ATC Inglis Millennium. Dawn Passage is a second-crop son of Dawn Approach - himself the winner of the Dewhurst/National Stakes G1 double before returning at three to win the English 2,000 Guineas and St James’s Palace Stakes.
And what of McLaren, the Snowden Racing front-runner for the 2019 Golden Slipper and another clear example of the unmatched Exceed And Excel precocity.
ACCESSION (Brazen Beau - Ready As Elle). 2018 RL Inglis Nursery at Royal Randwick
Then there is Shooting To Win who, like Brazen Beau, is a first-season sire and Darley resident.
It's understandable that given the atomic boom on Tassort that Shooting To Win hasn't got the same amount of attention as Brazen Beau, but the signs are already there that this son of Northern Meteor is laying the groundwork for next season and beyond.
A 'winter two-year-old' who became a Classic horse himself, Shooting To Win’s son and $160,000 Easter Yearling colt, Shotmaker, will see his value rise sharply should he take out the Blue Diamond, thanks in part to the fact that his dam, Maroon Bay, is an Exceed And Excel half-sister to Merchant Navy.
Shotmaker, second in a G3 on his debut at the start of February, is trained by Mick Price who won the 2012 Blue Diamond with Samaready, the dam of Godolphin's 2019 Restricted Listed Magic Millions 2YO Classic winner Exhilarates.
That's on top of the high promise that John O'Shea's city winner debutante, Shooting To Win filly Intrepidacious, holds for the future.
Many of you will recall that Lonhro's son Denman's first ever runner was the Breeder's Plate winner, Law. Fast forward to today and head over the Tasman where we find the Tony Pike-trained two-year-old Whiskey Neat, a $220,000 Karaka Yearling who started the new year with an easy win in the coveted G3 Eclipse Stakes.
Previous winners of the Ellerslie 2YO feature include Bonecrusher, Yir Tiz, Katie Lee, Our Maizcay and Jennifer Rush.
Back home and the Godolphin Denman colt Langiera once again demonstrated the value of having Exceed And Excel as a broodmare sire, with an early Black Type placing to his career in the G3 Chairman's Stakes at Caulfield.
Meanwhile, Golden Rose and Doomben 10,000 winner Epaulette could well have it in him to sire a Champion two-year-old.
We saw as much in the season just ended via the Australian-bred Soqrat, who was far and away the best two-year-old in South Africa. Soqrat is one of six Stakes winners from Epaulette’s first crop with an honourable mention to Cossetot, Sheikh Mohammed's first runner in Tasmania, who marked the occasion by winning the Listed Derby on Friday, 8 February.
Epaulette’s banner horse in 2019, so far at least, is Tony Gollan's unbeaten two-year-old filly Epaumada, who made the quantum leap from Gatton maiden winner (by three and a half lengths) to an Eagle Farm Open two-year-old handicap (by a length and a half) in the space of just 11 days.
Finally, to one of the best two-year-olds Australia has seen, Sepoy. His daughter Alizee's ongoing feats have her rated behind only Winx (Street Cry) as the best mare currently racing in Australia.
Sepoy's reach far exceeds our own shores and in Ireland in mid-September, his then two-year-old daughter Sparkle'n'joy became another European Stakes winners when first past the post in the 1,400m Ingabelle Stakes at Leopardstown.