Trainer Danny Williams has been chasing his tail a little with recent recruit Wizard Of Oz but believes he’s caught up to where he wants to be for Saturday’s TAB Highway (1200m) at Randwick.
The five-year-old, who was a $1.1m yearling and started out with Chris Waller before heading to Warren Gavenlock at Coffs Harbour, has raced twice for Williams in Highway company for a first-up fourth and a last start second at Rosehill three weeks ago.
In an ideal world Williams said he would have preferred those runs to be at 1100m and 1200m instead of the 1200m and 1300m so has been pleased with his efforts and says he couldn’t have the horse fitter.
“We thought he could go close to winning first-up then a bit more confident second-up but unfortunately was beaten both times,’’ he said.
“He’s no better than he was second-up but he’s drawn a nice gate and has continued to work well. I think he is more a 1200m horse because he tends to go a little bit hard.”
Wizard Of Oz, $7.50 with TAB on Thursday, contested the Country Championships Final back in April having run second in the Northern Rivers Championships.
The entire was run down by Overlord after leading in his second-up run and Williams said he’d like to replicate his first-up run, without the bad luck at a vital stage, where he tracked the speed.
“I wasn’t unhappy that he led the other day, I think it wasn’t a bad move because he does settle better but they kicked up on his inside and we had another horse take us on and he never came back under Jason (Collett),’’ he said.
“He began that brilliantly Jason said he took advantage of that. He’s better in a fast run race if he’s able to come back.”
Williams could have up to three runners in the Highway if Atmospheric Rock and Montebello’s Charm take their places in the race.
He said both are a little behind where he’d like to be with fitness given they haven’t trialled but says they are talented horses who will be competitive at Highway level and perhaps a bit better.
In Atmospheric Rock’s case, he could be the trainer’s leading Country Championships contender for 2024.
“We had him entered for two official trials and got balloted out. The only concern is he hasn’t had a jump out and he hasn’t had a barrier trial,’’ he said.
“He won’t be far away but he hasn’t had those good hitouts to bring him on.
“Montebello’s Charm is a much improved horse, he’s improving each preparation, and he’s just a bit vulnerable at the sharper 1200m.”
All eyes will of course be on how Shelby Sixtysix returns in the Group 3 $1 million Southern Cross Group Concorde Stakes (1000m) given a disappointing autumn campaign.
Williams is taking a realistic view saying it’s unlikely the gelding will be in a place where he could give Eduardo and Nature Strip a scare, as he did in the Challenge Stakes in 2022, but he’s had the smoothest preparation for some time.
Shelby Sixtysix has been busy with three barrier trials in August.
“We’ve been very lucky that this is the most work we’ve been able to get under his belt first-up but he’s really a couple of weeks off being ready,’’ he said.
“He hasn’t cleaned up enough and been in long enough to be wound up but he’s come up better. A little cushion in the ground would be perfect for him.
“He’s lacking a bit of confidence and we hope to see him run a competitive race.”
– Racing NSW