Willo Delivers As Bianco Books Second Country Championships Berth

Craig Williams set himself a job of qualifying Bianco Vilano for the $1 million Newhaven Park Country Championships Final and he delivered in spades.

The champion jockey took all before him on Southern Districts Country Championships Day at Albury riding a treble for trainer Ron Stubbs including the one that really mattered, and it took a well timed ride for the five-year-old to etch his name in history alongside Another One as dual SDRA champions.

Williams used all the knowledge he gained from riding Bianco Vilano in his major lead up race at Moonee Valley and the big fellow mowed down Doug Gorrel’s game mare Asgarda to win, with his stablemate and older brother Baledon in third.

Craig Williams with Bianco Vilano after winning the SDRA Country Championships at Albury (Pic: Kylie Shaw)

“I could see the benefit (of riding today) and the Final is worth so much money and it’s targeted by all corners of NSW,’’ Williams said.

“It’s great to bring the country to the city and I’m looking forward to it with Bianco Vilano.

“I think it’s a great initiative by Racing NSW to adopt this program and I was lucky enough to bring my children up here to share the experience at Albury.

“I love the turnout, the community is engaged and supportive. It’s fantastic for me to be a part of it.

“Full credit to my horse, Ron Stubbs and all the team around him.”

On the back of joining the Matt Dunn duo Tribeca Star and Rainbow Connection in the $1 million Final at Royal Randwick on April 6, both Bianco Vilano and Asgarda are $15 chances with TAB.

Stubbs, who also combined with Williams for wins with Sparring and Prophet’s Daughter, said he’ll give thought as to how to bridge the gap between Albury and Day 1 of the Star Championships which is still just under seven weeks away.

Last year Stubbs used a barrier trial before Bianco Vilano finished fourth behind Sizzle Minizzle at Randwick.

“Today was basically the grand final. You can’t go anywhere unless you get past today,’’ Stubbs said.

“We’ve done that and we’ll take a few days to see what the best option is. He’s a good clean winded horse, we wouldn’t have to race him.”

Bianco Vilano emulated Gary Colvin’s stable star Another One, who won the SDRA title in 2021 and 2022 and in that horse’s second attempt he was able to taste success in the Final.

“It’s good to get one that can do it back-to-back,’’ Stubbs said.

“I don’t think he’s better, per say, just more seasoned. Even in his attitude because he can be a bit playful but he’s a more mature horse now and I think that helps him.”

Wagga trainer Doug Gorrel is rapt with how the lightly raced Asgarda took it right up to the more seasoned winner and will head to Randwick with some enthusiastic owners to try their luck in the final.

It was only the mare’s 10th race start and Gorrel said he felt like a winner.

“If you’re going to get beaten, getting beaten with a golden ticket for second into the $1 million final is the way to do it,’’ he said.

“We’ll head up there, we’ll have her cherry ripe.

“Obviously it’s going to be 10 times harder but they don’t give them away when they’re worth $1 million so we’ll be there and we’ll be trying. It’s just been an amazing ride.”

– Racing NSW

Share this article