Bandi’s Boy to lead Williams’ trio into red-hot Moruya qualifier

Jay Ford will ride the Danny Williams-trained Bandi’s Boy in today’s South East Country Championships qualifier at Moruya. Image: Bradley Photos.

Goulburn trainer Danny Williams will make a three-pronged attack on this afternoon’s $150,000 South East Country Championships qualifier at Moruya. 

He’s not there to make up the numbers in the 1400m event, with Bandi’s Boy (Jay Ford, $2.70) the well-supported favourite, Atmospheric Rock (Jason Collett, $5) well in the market, and Stormy Witness (Kayla Nisbet, $151) one of the outsiders.

The four-year-old Bandi’s Boy is a three-time winner from eight starts, boasting multiple city wins under his belt. 

Late last year, he won a 1200m Class Three Highway Handicap at Royal Randwick before running third to I’ve Bean Tryin’ in the $250,000 Barn Dance (1300m) when beaten a length at Royal Randwick.

He resumed from a 10-week let-up at Royal Randwick in late January and was a good winner in a 1200m Benchmark 78 Handicap at Royal Randwick.

Late last month, he took on an 1100m Benchmark 78 Handicap, finishing an eye-catching third to Shadows of Love.

Williams believes the strong support for Bandi‘s Boy is warranted, describing him as the ‘class runner’ of his chances.

“You’ve only got to look at his form,” Williams told NSW Country and Picnic Racing.

“He’s the only horse in the field that has been running consistently well in Saturday Benchmark races.

“Obviously, there are other horses with Benchmark form, but our guy started off in a Group 3 and has been racing in town ever since. 

“We’re happy with the horse this preparation, and given what he has done, he deserves to be favourite.” 

Williams has always had an opinion of his The Brothers War gelding, but he thinks the penny hasn’t entirely dropped for the talented Goulburn galloper. 

“He’s never surprised me, and I’ve always said to John (Woods), his owner, he’s got that sort of ability,” Williams said.  

“Even when we were taking him to town early on, his owner didn’t know if that’s what we should be doing, but I had full confidence in the horse’s ability. 

“The penny hasn’t dropped, and only this prep is he starting to work out what it is all about.”

While Bandi’s Boy will likely start favourite, Atmospheric Rock will have his supporters in today’s race. 

There’s been a lot of money ($9.50 to $5) for the four-year-old, who was a winner in the 1200m Class Three Highway Handicap at Royal Randwick last month.

He backed that effort up with a fifth-place finish in the 1400m Class Three Highway Handicap at Rosehill Gardens on February 24. 

The Your Song gelding draws better (gate eight) than his more-fancied rivals, but he does get back and will need some luck in the running. 

Still, if he finds daylight in the final two furlongs, watch out for a blistering finish.

“We’re very upbeat about Atmospheric Rock running better than last Saturday,” Williams said. 

“We believe the track took away his brilliance, and Jason rode him conservatively, knowing we had this race in eight days’ time. 

“From the wide gate, they got further back than we wanted, and his turn of foot wasn’t there in that going, but we are very pleased with how he has come out of that race, and he’s rebounded really well. 

“If he can recapture the form of his first two runs, he’ll be right in it.”

While Stormy Witness is one of the despised outsiders at $151, Williams doesn’t believe her lofty price is a fair representation of the four-year-old’s ability. 

A two-time winner, the Star Witness mare won a 1400m Class Three Highway Handicap at Rosehill Gardens in September but has been plagued by minor setbacks since that decisive victory. 

“We honestly thought she wasn’t far behind Atmospheric Rock,” Williams said. 

“There’s not a great deal between them, but they have very different racing patterns. 

“Her last four runs were interrupted by wet tracks and minor injuries, and while her first run back in town, where she won that Highway, was terrific, she hasn’t had a whole lot of luck since then.

“The mare cut her shoulder going into that first start, and she missed a lot of work. To be honest, I didn’t expect her to win that day, and she toughed it out. 

“We battled away with a joint issue and wet tracks, and the only concern is that she might be looking for a mile and a quarter, and whether she is sharp enough at this level remains to be seen.

“Still, she is tough, and that run at Rosehill would have brought her on significantly, and she is definitely not out of it.”

It’s set to be a fantastic qualifier and the strongest thus far in the 2024 Country Championships, with Williams’s trio coming up against the likes of Zouatica, Bon Frankie, Missile Leader, and Sir Ming. 

For our comprehensive preview of the South East qualifier, click here

For more on the 2024 Country Championships, click here