By Jonny Turner
Match fitness is the only concern trainer Phil Williamson has ahead of his star trotter Ultimate Stride returning to racing at Ascot Park on Saturday.
The three-year-old will start for the first time since he trounced Australia’s best two-year-olds at last year’s group 1 Breeder’s Crown Finals in August.
Ultimate Stride has spent much of his time since that win recovering from a broken pedal bone.
The blueblood son of Love You and champion mare, One Over Kenny, has put the injury behind him and prepared for his return in race 8 on Saturday with two trials at Oamaru.
Though finishing third behind Rydgemont Son and unplaced behind Humble Ladd may not look like sparkling form on paper, Williamson has been pleased with his chestnut’s lead up effort.
“He is very well and even though he has been beaten in both of his trials I have been very pleased with him.”
Ultimate Stride is clearly the horse to beat in Saturday’s 2200m mobile event given many of his opponent’s form pales in comparison to his Group 1 accomplishments.
But, Williamson has been training long enough to know that racing is not quite that simple.
Especially when his son, Nathan, has the talented Chinese Whisper in Saturday’s race.
“I would like to think he could go out there and round them up, but it is not quite that easy.”
“Race fitness would be my biggest concern.”
“And there are some nice horses in there, Nathan’s one is a very nice horse in his own right.”
Drawing barrier 8 under the race’s preferential barrier conditions adds to Ultimate Stride’s challenge.
How keen the trotter feels for driver Matthew Williamson in his first start back under the pressure of race day could decide their early tactics.
“I probably wouldn’t like to see him rushing out early, but it could depend on how keen he feels behind the gate.”
“But, he will be getting around them at some stage.”
Chinese Whisper has had two post-lockdown workouts to prepare for his return on Saturday.
The four-year-old has not started since his third placing at Ascot Park in February.
Jimmy Carter gives Williamson a strong hand in race 8.
The five-year-old bounced back to winning form, after being pulled up in his two prior starts, when winning at Ascot Park last weekend.
“He definitely wouldn’t be the worst chance, I could see him running in the first four,” Williamson said.
Davey Mac and Horse Of Course also race under 2200m mobile conditions for the Williamson stable in race 5.
Davey Mac will need to bring his manners after galloping out of contention behind Jimmy Carter last week.
Horse Of Course was worked home stylishly to run third in the same event.
“Horse Of Course would be a good eachway chance, I think all of our team are good chances on Saturday.’’
“And if Davey Mac brings his manners he will be in it.”
Williamson starts Miss Crazed and Day Dreamin in race 1, another 2200m mobile event.
Miss Crazed produced a huge finish for second after galloping early in her last start behind Arc De Triomphe.
“She is going to be hard to beat if she trots the whole way.”
Day Dreamin broke in her only start at Addington last month, but has since show improved manners in two trials.
“I was happy with her trial at Ashburton on Wednesday, she should go a good race.”