Tamworth connection for Golden Slipper hopeful Single Bullet

Leonie Johnson (black and white dress at the front) holds the Pago Pago trophy after Single Bullet's Golden Slipper-qualifying win.
Leonie Johnson (black and white dress at the front) holds the Pago Pago trophy after Single Bullet's Golden Slipper-qualifying win.

It might not quite be the race that stops the nation, but Saturday’s Golden Slipper might just stop Tamworth with two locals having a vested interest in runners in the prestigious race.

While former Bective-East cricketer Andrew Pieper will be cheering home She Will Reign, Leonie Johnson will be hoping Single Bullet can rifle his way to victory.

The semi-retired nurse is part of what was originally an all ladies syndicate in the Not A Single Doubt-Cheetara colt, who is trained by Gary Portelli, and incidentally a stable-mate of She Will Reign.

Johnson holds a five per cent share, which she shares with her sister, sister-in-law and cousin.

“It’s been wonderful because we can all get together,” Johnson said.

They are spread around the state with Johnson in Tamworth, her sister in Albury, sister-in-law in Port Macquarie and cousin in Sydney.

Her sister was the one that got them involved.

“My brother and brother-in-law had a horse with Gary Portelli at the time.

“She kept getting information from the Portelli Stables,” Johnson said.

One of those emails just happened to be about about forming a ‘Ladies Only Syndicate’ to purchase a yearling to be aimed at the Magic Millions 2YO Classic, which offered a $500,000 bonus for the first four all-female owned or leased horses.

“My sister said lets go in this,” Johnson said.

Racing is ingrained in their DNA.

“We’ve always been in racing. Our parents were in racing and my husband (Mick) was a jockey,” she said.

Yet to be unplaced, Johnson said they can’t believe their luck and is loving the ride.

“We think we’re very lucky and we’re having lots of fun,” she said.

“We just can’t believe we’ve got a runner in the Golden Slipper.”

It has been a dream, she said.

“You often think when it comes around it’d be great to have a horse in it,” she said.

He has had just four starts to date.

“His first start was at Wyong and he really should have won that race but he missed the start and flew home,” Johnson said.

“His second start was at Warwick Farm and he had meltdown.”

He was still good enough to run second before, after a five week freshen up, finishing third in the wet at Randwick and then winning the Group 3 Pago Pago at Rosehill to qualify for the Slipper.

“He tries really hard. He’s as tough as nails,” Johnson said.

That said, he will need a lot of things to go right, she said, and is hoping the three draw doesn’t hinder him too much. There is the worry of being cut off as the field settles for positions.

Whatever happens though it’s just great to be a part of it.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’ve got a five per cent share or 100 per cent you still get the same thrill from it,” she said.

She said the husbands/partners have all got new ties to wear in the horses’ red, white and blue colours.

There was a cloud over his involvement when on Wednesday afternoon he became cast in his stable. But after a second vet inspection on Friday he was cleared to start.

  • Saturday’s Narrabri Cup meeting has been rescheduled to Saturday June 3.