By Ray Hickson
Don’t Give A Damn, the raging Country Championships favourite, hardly excited trainer Danny Williams when the gelding first arrived at his stable last year.
It’s a surprising fact and story that Williams revealed.
That's because the gelding has won four of his five starts, is TAB's $2.90 Country Championships Final favourite, will be odds-on to win Saturday’s Qualifier at Goulburn and is considered a possible light weight Doncaster chance too.
The now four-year-old was originally in the care of Gratz Vella at Canberra and he was having all sorts of trouble getting the horse to even walk into a barrier stall, so owner Keith Carmody asked Williams if he could have a crack.
Surprisingly, again, Williams said he initially rejected the horse.
“At that stage I had 30 plus horses and was pretty occupied and I said to him I really didn’t have the time to put into a horse with a barrier problem,’’ Williams said.
“A couple of weeks later we dropped in numbers so I ran Keith Carmody back to see what he’d done with the horse.’’
Carmody had sent Don’t Give A Damn to Olympic equestrian rider Shane Rose and Williams liaised with him to get the horse comfortable in the gates.
“Shane rang me to ask what I specifically wanted and I said I’d just like to get the horse in the gates and make him stand,’’ Williams said.
“Not to jump him out, just give him some feed in there and get him to stand and lessen the anxiety.’’
Once Don’t Give A Damn had passed his barrier manners course he arrived at Goulburn but Williams still wasn’t sold on the horse.
Excitable, touchy, jumpy, nervous – these are all words the trainer used to describe the horse and he felt he had more pressing projects than Don’t Give A Damn.
“I’d ridden the horse a number of times and he had no idea how to use himself,’’ Williams said.
“He was a nervous, high anxiety horse and I didn’t have a great opinion of him because he didn’t feel to me to have enough athleticism.
“Paul, my main trackwork rider, had a great affinity with him and I sort of passed him over to Paul because I had other horses that warranted more of my concentration.’’
Remember, this is the horse that will start a hot favourite in the $150,000 SERA Country Championships Qualifier (1400m) at Goulburn on Saturday.
This is the horse that holds the biggest winning margin in a TAB Highway, of 6-1/2 lengths, and that won a Benchmark 83 with his head on his chest first-up on February 3.
Prior to Don’t Give A Damn’s first trial back in August, Williams was concerned he was losing weight and rang Carmody to express that concern.
But he made it to the trials, ran second and could have trotted it, and Williams discovered he’s a horse that likes to work and thrives on competition.
“The horse that won, he could have won comfortably, was an absolute flying machine and they beat the others by six or eight and that was the first time I thought he had something,’’ he said.
“Every time we’ve done something with him he comes home and does better. He never seems to bottom out.’’
Williams said he’s happy with Don’t Give A Damn heading into Saturday’s Qualifier where he’s widely expected to be too classy despite it being three weeks since his first-up win at Rosehill.
Don't Give A Damn's easy first-up win at Rosehill on February 3.
There, as Punters Intel revealed, he broke the hearts of his rivals in the first half of the race running 8.21 for the first 100m then 11.16 (second quickest) and 11.45 (fastest) for the next two 200m splits before holding a couple of lengths on the line.
He galloped with stablemate Acquittal on Tuesday and the trainer said he looked a million dollars following the workout.
If, and when, Don’t Give A Damn qualifies for the $500,000 Country Championships Final (1400m) at Randwick on April 7 it will leave Williams and Carmody with an interesting dilemma.
He’ll likely head to the Group 2 Ajax Stakes (1500m) at Rosehill on March 17 where a win would earn him an exemption for the $3m The Star Doncaster (1600m) also on April 7.
Under the Country Championships rules, Williams can make application to contest the Doncaster instead of the Country Final.
“Everybody would like to be running in a Doncaster but we’ve got to get past this race first,’’ Williams said.