Bandi's Change Of Luck Has Williams Dreaming Of Championships Crown

By Ray Hickson

He might have a Group 1 trophy on his shelf but trainer Danny Williams covets a Newhaven Park Country Championships Final and in the promising Bandi’s Boy he feels he has his best chance in six years.

The series hasn’t been the kindest to the popular Goulburn trainer over the years, though he’s won the SERA Championships twice and had Don’t Give A Damn run second in the 2018 Final things haven’t always fallen into place.

Trainer Danny Williams

That could be said with how Williams has had to battle to get Bandi’s Boy to Moruya for Sunday’s $150,000 Newhaven Park South East Country Championships (1400m).

At one stage he thought the dream was over, when the four-year-old sustained a freak injury shortly after his first-up win, but it seems the tide has turned.

“We’ve had a lot of runners from the very first race but it’s been a bit of a curse to us,’’ Williams said.

“We’ve always had one that’s been good enough, luckily for us, and competitive enough to head that way but we haven’t won one yet.

“When you look at it from a country view it’s our grand final, it’s our Championships.

“Getting away from the opportunity I’ve been lucky enough to have running in million dollar races (with Shelby Sixtysix), when you dress it all down this is a big thing.”

So you can see why Williams pinned his hopes on Bandi’s Boy being the horse that could finally bring the trophy back to his Goulburn stable.

It seemed the path was smooth when the gelding scored a surprise first-up win in a Benchmark 78 at Randwick but the road became rocky quickly when he had a mishap while travelling to have a swim.

And, sadly, one of his owners, John Woods, passed away around the same time.

“It was quite serious, he got his leg caught over the divider bar and broke it. It’s probably the reason he didn’t do more damage,’’ he said.

“The main artery on the inside of his leg you could see in the wound. He didn’t damage it luckily, it was like he tore everything away from it all.

“He’s never been lame, that’s the saving grace, obviously it doesn’t look great but the vets reassured us it was only superficial and would heal very quickly.

“The upside of the injury is it allowed him to have that time because he’s bounced out of the injury really improved.”

Williams says you need everything to go right to win a Country Championships race and while you can argue that’s not been the case with Bandi’s Boy his eye-catching third at Rosehill last weekend told the trainer he’s right on track.

With 60.5kg on his back and dropping to 1100m, Bandi’s Boy charged into third place behind Shadows Of Love and in Williams’ estimation right back into contention for the Championships.

“I thought the preparation was over for him when I first saw the wound,’’ he said.

“I all but cried I was so devastated when I saw the injury. I thought the horse had so much improvement into him going into his first run and to see the horse win, knowing he had that improvement, was a complete shock.

“That run last Saturday was the run he had to have to fill the gap and bring him on.

“The last five days he had a bit of a rushed campaign to get him ready. We had the option of running in the 1300m or 1100m race and I thought we’d go the 1100m as it was better to come out of it a bit stimulated and since he raced he’s gone to another level.

“I thought the run was outstanding and the best thing of all is he’s come through it really well.”

Jay Ford heads to Moruya to ride Bandi’s Boy, $2.90 with TAB on Friday, Jason Collett will also head south to continue his association with stablemate Atmospheric Rock in the race, and the gelding’s next challenge is to overcome a wide gate.

But that’s less a concern to Williams than anything he’s been through to date.

“Before his first start I always said he needs to sit behind horses and have them execute the race for him to be able to finish over the top of them,’’ he said.

“Obviously barriers win races but he’s going to be out of trouble, where he finds himself is a bit of a worry. But three or four of them will go quick and he’ll find himself three wide, maybe, and I’d prefer him to stalk. A bit of room certainly won’t hurt him.”

Atmospheric Rock secured his place at Moruya with a timely Highway win at Randwick on February 10 and Williams elected to run him again in case he needed another ratings boost to hold a spot.

He ran fifth behind Belvedere Boys in last week’s Highway at Rosehill after going back to last from the outside barrier.

“We went to Rosehill very confident he was going to perform better than he had in his precious two starts,’’ he said.

“And he’s come through it well. Traditionally we need to space his runs and keep him fresh to show his best. I said to Jason prior to his race that it’s not his grand final, it’d be nice to run top three to elevate his rating but I don’t want him to have a tough run.

“Jason rode him a bit conservative from the gate and got a bit too far out of his ground.”

The barrier gods have been kinder to Atmospheric Rock for his major aim and that gives the trainer heart.

“I know the horse is flying and if he gets a surface that is not too rock hard it will suit as he comes out of very strong Highways,’’ he said.

“If he can repeat those efforts he’s going to be one of the main chances.”