By Ray Hickson
Goulburn trainer Danny Williams couldn’t have been happier with the return performances of his three Newhaven Park Country Championships hopefuls but faces the prospect of going against his inital plan to ensure their places in the final field.
Shelby Sixtysix and Southern Appeal produced eye-catching first-up thirds at Randwick last Saturday while Leg Work finished a closing fourth on his home track on Monday.
But he’s concerned Shelby Sixtysix and Southern Appeal aren’t rated high enough and may need to have another run prior to the SERA Qualifier (1400m) at Nowra on February 14.
“I’ve put a plan in place to do a bit more homework as we get a bit closer to see what horses are heading that way so I have some sort of feel of how many horses there are above us in the ratings,’’ Williams said.
“I haven’t got a Don’t Give A Damn or She Knows or a Floki this year, I don’t have that sort of headline horse, but we have three going there that should be competitive.
“In the last couple of years the (South East) heat has been if not the strongest the equal strongest.”
Three years ago Williams famously saddled up nine runners and trained the trifecta with Kopi Luwak beating Pumpkin Pie and Acquittal in the SERA heat run at Goulburn.
He didn’t have a runner in last year’s Qualifier at Moruya, with the minimum benchmark of 68 required to make that field.
While such a number may not be needed for the 2021 edition, meaning Leg Work’s 67 rating is likely to be enough, Shelby Sixtysix’s Randwick placing, where he clocked the fastest last 600m of the meeting, only took him to 63 and Southern Appeal remained on 62 after his third placing.
In a boost for the Shoalhaven City Turf Club, Williams said Sydney’s premier jockey James McDonald would ride Shelby Sixtysix at Nowra, joining Tommy Berry who is set to partner Art Cadeau for Terry Robinson, if he makes the field.
If he feels he needs to race again Shelby Sixtysix may contest a 1200m Class 3 Highway at Randwick on February 6 but he isn’t sure what option to take for Southern Appeal.
“These Championships horses that we have, we made a long program with them which you’ve got to do,’’ he said.
“The one run was my plan but I am a bit worried about two of them getting a run.
“All three horses have some sort of issue which makes it more difficult if I want to run them again but I may have to run two of them again.”
It’d be a timely boost for the Williams stable if all three prospects can make the field for the Country Championships Qualifier.
It’s been a noticeably quiet month or so for Williams but with horses coming back into work after a busy 2020 there’s plenty to look forward to.
“With the Covid situation we kept them going a lot longer than we would normally and I think a lot of people have done the same,’’ he said.
“Around Christmas time we had staff leaving us, staff wanting holidays off so it was an easy call for us to turn them all out and have 10 in work.
“We’re back to 29 and hopeful of getting up to 35 by the first couple of weeks of next month.”