by Jonny Turner
Classy squaregaiter Dark Horse is set to show racegoers she has lost none of her speed at Ascot Park on Sunday.
The 7yr-old will start in her first race since the 2017 Dominion when starting from a 50m handicap in the feature trot on Riverton Cup day.
While trainer-driver Nathan Williamson has some concerns about his mare taking on such a big handicap after a lengthy injury break, he does not have to worry about whether Dark Horse still has the same zip he is known for.
She showed that when home Riverton Cup contender Paddyproudfoot was holding her own with middle grade pacers in a recent workout at Winton.
“She has got great talent, there’s no question about that,” Williamson said.
“She has obviously got a big motor, it has just been a matter of her holding together and getting the fitness in to her.”
“She has been in work for quite some time.”
“It has been a long process, but hopefully everything is back on track now – she seems pretty good.”
Despite her talent, punters are unlikely to flock to back Dark Horse as they have done in the past.
She faces a massive task from her big handicap in tomorrow’s 2700m event.
“It is going to be tough, obviously two years without a race and meeting some class horses, who have had the benefit of a few runs,” Williamson said.
“We are not expecting miracles, but we are hopeful she will go a competitive race.”
Dark Horse will have Majestic Man and Monty Python beside her on the 50m back mark.
Majestic Man disappointed his backers when unable to reel in King Cassidy in his first run for the season at Gore last weekend.
The Phil Williamson trained trotter should strip fitter for that run and looks the horse to beat.
His stablemate Monty Python faded in to fourth in the same Gore event.
Robbie Royale looks the main danger to the back markers.
The Brett Gray trained 6yr-old produced a solid third at Gore after notching back-to-back wins.
Williamson starts Franco Santino in tomorrow’s Riverton Cup, which is shaping as arguable the race of the Southland season, so far.
The 5yr-old drops dramatically in class after running sixth in the Hannon, behind four All Stars guns and A G’s White Socks.
“I thought it was a good run and about what we were expecting,” Williamson said.
“I am more than happy with how he went and how he has come through it.”
“We gave him a freshen up and he had a trial last week.”
“His work has been good since, so I expect a good run.”
Franco Santino meets a host of strong winning chances in a highly competitive event including Norman Richards, Hayden’s Meddle, Paddyproudfoot and Robyns Playboy.
Williamson lines up a host of his chances from his stable tomorrow.
Impressive first up winner Pembrook Playboy takes on Tyron’s Bit Of Lemon and Lawerence in a rating 54-59 event over 2200m.
The trainer-driver has recent workout winner, Major Watson, in a hot maiden field.
He clashes with promising types Forsure, See Ya Write and Undercover Mac.
Allaboutjoy looks a strong winning chance if Williamson can negotiate a clear path from her one on the second row draw in maiden fillies and mares company.