By Ray Hickson
Trainer Danny Williams’ Country Championships stocks have taken a hit in the past week but he’s hoping to leave Randwick on Wednesday with talented gallopers Acquittal and Chewbacca proving they are on target.
The Goulburn trainer revealed impressive first-up winner Coup De Main is out with injury and there’s a cloud hanging over Highway Sixtysix after a run-in with a fence.
But he’s looking for Acquittal, his number one seed for Saturday week’s Goulburn Qualifier, to back up his last start second behind Noble Boy in the Australian Turf Club Handicap (1400m).
Acquittal has only won the one race but he’s been placed another seven times in 10 starts including last year’s Goulburn Qualifier and Williams said he needed another hit-out before next week.
“He’s a hard going horse on the track and I thought he’s better off having a run than putting his guts into trackwork,’’ Williams said.
Acquittal runs second to Noble Boy at Warwick Farm on February 9
“If he went three weeks between runs it’s too much for him and he’d be off his brain when he gets to Goulburn.’’
TAB has Acquittal marked at $26 in the Country Championships and $6 for Wednesday’s race.
Punters Intelligence data reveals while Noble Boy was clearly superior late when he downed Acquittal at Warwick Farm, the Williams galloper expended much more energy in the first 600m by 0.24 seconds.
“The thought process was to have Noble Boy chasing a lot further from home and I think we could have beaten him. He just trucked up behind us too easily,’’ he said.
“The 1200m is too sharp for him and the winner was just too brilliant for us. He’s perhaps looking for 1500m or 1600m and he lacks that turn of foot.’’
Stablemate My Blue Jeans rounds out his Country Championships preparation in the same race and Williams said he’d be in need of significant give in the track to be a winning chance.
“On what he’s been showing he’d have to improve three or four lengths to be competitive,’’ he said.
“He jarred up at Goulburn (first-up) then appreciated getting into the ground at Canterbury but he’s another looking for more than 1400m.’’
The lightly raced Chewbacca faces a task to win the Events By ATC Handicap (1000m) but Williams said it’s an important stepping stone to next week’s Qualifier.
The four-year-old, kept safe by TAB at $4.60, hasn’t started since finishing second to Our Rosemaree, as favourite, in a Highway at Rosehill in December and has had an interrupted preparation.
“We’re chasing our tail with him,’’ Williams said.
“When he went out they removed his shoes, which I wasn’t in favour of, and he came back very tender in his feet. We haven’t been able to get him right to run him.
“He’s come good in the last seven days but we are behind the eight ball with him and this is like a barrier trial for him.’’
As a result of the foot issue Chewbacca, $15 in TAB’s Country Championships market, will wear concussion plates.
Williams is upbeat about the chances of Green Sweet ($5) in the ANZ Bloodstock News Handicap (1800m) after an eye-catching third in the Bega Cup and he’s found Hugh Bowman to ride, while he said not to undersell Glamour Cruise ($61) in the TAB Rewards Plate (1100m) despite her first-up defeat at the Sapphire Coast.