Waltzing Willie has rediscovered his zest for racing as an older horse and trainer Donna Grisedale expects another bold showing from the eight-year-old when he resumes on his home track in Sunday's Komatsu Wayne Glenn Pink Silks Cup (1205m) at Coffs Harbour.
Waltzing Willie has won four of his past seven starts going back to September, 2018 and is coming off back-to-back wins prior to his break in the $30,000 Murwillumbah Newmarket (1200m) on August 23 and an Open Hcp (1300m) at Ballina on October 6.
Prior to those two wins, Waltzing Willie ran a 'blinder' off an awkward gate in his only previous run at Coffs Harbour, finishing third to Got Unders and Taillevent, in the $50,000 Daniel Baker Sprint (1200m) on August 1.
"He's still going as well as he's ever gone," said Grisedale.
"He showed good ability as a younger horse, but then mid-career he just seemed to lose his way for a while. I think he just got bored with everything, so we changed a few things around with him and he got his spark back last year.
"He just loves people and being in the stable. He's got the biggest personality of any horse I've ever had. When I spell him, I just give him two weeks in the paddock as he just hates being away from the stable. He's a horse who just loves company."
Grisedale's move from Kembla Grange to Coffs Harbour almost a year ago also probably played a part in Waltzing Willie's rejuvenation.
"A change of scenery probably didn't hurt him - he does love the water and there's certainly plenty of that here," she said.
Waltzing Willie, a beautifully bred son of Street Cry out of the Redoute's Choice mare Original Choice, began his racing career back in 2014 under the care of leading trainer Chris Waller.
He won two races and was runner-up six times in his 17 starts for Waller before he found his way to the Grisedale stable in 2016.
It took him another 19 starts for Grisedale before he was able to win again in January, 2018, but he hasn't really looked back since. One of his five wins for Grisedale included a first-up win at Canterbury in February last year when he started the rank outsider at $61.
"He really loves night racing at Canterbury and it's a pity we're a bit too far away now to race there more often," said Grisedale.
"I plan to give him four well-spaced runs again this prep and he should be hard to beat when he resumes in Sunday's race. You can always take him to the races with a degree of confidence that he'll run well as he's a horse who always tries."
Grisedale will also saddle-up Chief In Command in Sunday's Pink Silks Cup, another eight-year-old who last won a race in October, 2016 when trained by Paul Murray.
The gelding has had eight starts for Grisedale, and has preformed quite well in his past four starts since resuming from a lengthy lay-off.
"He had almost a year off with a bad foot abscess and his recent efforts since returning haven't been too bad," said Grisedale.
"He's a bit like Waltzing Willie, I think he also got bored with racing as well, but it's taken much longer to get him motivated again."
Sunday's Pink Silks Cup field also includes the Lismore-trained stablemates Queen Of Kingston and Almas, the Port Macquarie sprinter The Drake and Coffs Harbour gelding Northern Knight, who will be all the better for his two runs back from a long lay-off.
Grisedale is also looking to improve her Country Championships chances at Sunday's seven-race meeting when Shirazzle tackles the F&M Benchmark 58 Hcp (1305m) and Coloane and Dollson line up in the C,G&E Benchmark 58 (1305m).
Waltzing Willie wins at Ballina in October
Coloane and Dollson's chances have improved with the scratching of promising Coffs Harbour-trained three-year-old Pace Stick, who would have started the clear favourite.
Coloane is resuming since August 12 when he lost his rider, Jon Grisedale, in a race at Lismore.
He had won two of his previous three starts at Lismore and Port Macquarie. Dollson, winner of two of his six starts, resumed at Port Macquarie on January 1, finishing a 3.4 length sixth to Acoustix in a Class 3 over 1210m.
Shirazzle has raced well in her four starts since resuming from a long lay-off, but has been dogged by poor barrier draws in each of those runs.
"She's been racing very well since she came back but has just had no luck at all with the barriers, but on Sunday she's finally drawn a good alley (barrier three) and she should run very well," said Grisedale.
"Coloane lives his life always looking fat, so he will probably need this run. Dollson would be the pick of my two in that race, which has opened up a bit with Pace Stick coming out.
"I'm looking towards the Country Championships Qualifier for all three of these horses, but they would each need to get another win on the board to improve their chances of getting in the race."
The $150,000 NRRA Country Championships Qualifier (1400m) will be run at Coffs Harbour on February 15. It is one of eight regional qualifiers heading towards the $500,000 Newhaven Park Country Championships Final (1400m) at Randwick on April 4.
Shirazzle's race at Coffs Harbour on Sunday, which is restricted to female riders, is one of the highlights on the 14th annual Pink Silks Ladies Raceday, which raises funds to assist with women's health.
It has raised $870,00 in its first 13 years. Thirteen female jockeys are down to ride in Sunday's race, won last year by Wendy Peel and by Rachael Murray in the two previous runnings.
Murray rides local mare Serene Beauty in Sunday's race while Allanah Fancourt takes the mount on Shirazzle.