Danny Williams lands emotional South East qualifier quinella

The Danny Williams-trained Bandi’s Boy (right) and Atmospheric Rock (left) have qualified for the $1 million Country Championships final at Royal Randwick on April 6. Image: Moruya Jockey Club.

Danny Williams fought back tears following Sunday’s emotional Country Championships South East qualifier at Moruya.

Training the first and second horse past the post in the $150,000 event, Bandi’s Boy (Jay Ford, $2.40) won in honour of his late owner, John Woods, who tragically passed away last month. 

Finding the line strongly down the outside, the Goulburn galloper defeated stablemate Atmospheric Rock (Jason Collet, $5.50) by three-quarters of a length, while a length away in third was the Aaron Clarke-trained Bon Frankie (Richard Bensley, $26). 

Making a difficult period all the harder, Williams also lost an employee this week, with his team still grieving heading into the Moruya meeting. 

“It’s been a hard week; we also lost a worker during the week, and to lose John, it’s really just hit me,” Williams said. 

“We’ve had to put it aside and really concentrate on today, and now I’m sort of feeling it a bit.”

Woods’ family was on hand to celebrate the bittersweet victory, which was a miracle in itself after Bandi’s Boy cut his leg last month.

“I honestly thought his campaign was over; you could see the artery,” Williams said. 

“He was very lucky the horse didn’t injure that; otherwise, he wouldn’t have been here either; he’s made a miraculous rebound.

“Look, what a great win; I just thank my staff. It’s been a tough week for all my staff, and we’ve had to put everything aside and focus on today, and it’s been a great result.”

Atmospheric Rock held on gamely for second when capping off the stable’s country Championship quinella and Williams was thrilled to see the pair book their spot in the $1 million final at Royal Randwick on April 6. 

“They’ve run incredible; they’ve come here today really primed, and we were ecstatic with the way they loaded onto the truck and were very upbeat about their chances,” Williams said.

Ford, who won a South East Country Championships qualifier for Williams in 2017, riding Pumpkin Pie to victory that year, was pleased to help the stable to another rewarding win.

“He’s a talented horse, and especially in the last few weeks with John passing away suddenly, it’s a bit of a sombre moment, but he finally got his good horse, and he’s off to the final,” Ford said. 

“Danny has done a good job to get him where he has (and) he had the superior form lines. 

“I was a little bit worried about how the track was playing, and from where we drew, we were always going to get back a touch, but he’s just a quality horse and the superior horse in that field today, and we rode him like that.”

Bandi’s Boy ran a strong seven furlongs, and Ford is predicting another robust showing in next month’s final. 

“That was the first time he had run 1400m as well; the speed looked good on paper, and that’s how we were hoping it would pan out,” Ford said. 

“It did (turn out) that way, and it enabled him to relax really nicely, and then he was nice and strong late.

“He is going to acquit himself very well in the final.”

With the South East qualifier in the books, we’re getting to the pointy end of the 2024 Country Championships, with the Hunter-North West heat to be run and won at Tamworth next Sunday ahead of the Western Districts qualifier at Coonamble on Sunday, March 17. 

For more on the 2024 Country Championships, click here