Surprises don’t come much better than a Sydney metropolitan victory worth more than $80,000 to the winner.
Still, for Danny Williams, it was a welcome surprise as Bandi’s Boy snuck along the rails before bursting to a strong victory in the 1200m Benchmark 78 Handicap at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
“It was a bit of a surprise,” Williams told NSW Country and Picnic Racing.
“We thought he was capable of running a good race, but we didn’t think the horse was quite there on his trackwork, and based on what we had seen, we thought he might need the run.”
Ridden by Jay Ford, the Goulburn galloper got the run of the race from gate three, sitting three pairs back on the rails.
The pair sat a few lengths off the pacesetters on the Royal Randwick straight, but there was space on the inside, and from there, Bandi’s Boy ($9.50) was too strong to the line, winning by nearly a length from the Michael, Wayne, and John Hawkes-trained Fire (Tommy Berry, $21) while over a length away in third was the Richard Litt-trained Munitions (Jake Barrett, $21).
“Look, it also helped that he had a soft gate, the good draw, and the scratchings,” Williams said.
“It was a really good run, and it just reassures me that he’s come up because, based on his trackwork, I was questioning how well he was going.”
While thrilled with the result, Williams was most pleased for breeder and owner, John Woods.
“John bred the horse, and the mare (Tibidabo) died, so he is the first and only foal out of the mare,” Williams said.
“Plus, he’s been battling away; his wife hasn’t been all that well, and she is in some sort of care, and to win it for him is very rewarding.”
Following his metropolitan victory, Bandi’s Boy firmed into the equal $8 favourite for the 2024 Country Championships.
Williams confirmed that his stable has planned to target the South East qualifier at Moruya on Sunday, March 3.
“It was always the Country Championships for him,” Williams said.
“He’s obviously only a lightly raced horse, and up until yesterday, he was only a Class Two horse, and we thought if we could get one win out of three going into the country champs, that would be great.
“Saturday’s win took us by surprise, and we might have to change our view on his program.
“The perfect program would have been to run yesterday, and again in a fortnight, and then again in another fortnight, which is eight days prior to the heat, but we may have to change tack a little.”
Another Williams-trained galloper heading towards the South East Country Championships qualifier is Atmospheric Rock, which caught the eye when finishing fourth in the 1200m Class Three Highway Handicap on Saturday.
After getting back in the field, jockey Jason Collett was forced to take the Goulburn galloper wide, but they stormed home into fourth, beaten just over a length by winner Blow Dart.
“Look, that horse had been going enormous, and based on his work, which had been really good, the expectations were quite high,” Williams said.
“At 1200m and on the drying side, we thought it might be a bit sharp, but on the way up, we ran through some rain, and the track had plenty of give in it.
“It gave us confidence as both horses (Atmospheric Rock and Bandi’s Boy) like to have some give in the track.
“I thought his run was enormous, and he was wide in transit, and Jason said if he had drawn where the first three horses were, he would have won confidently.”
Atmospheric Rock, which has started ten times for one win and five minor placings, earning connections over $100,0000, is not guaranteed a start in the South East qualifier and will likely have to win another race to gain a run.
“He is going to the Country Championships, but he has a lot of work to do,” Williams said.
“We need to pick his benchmark up and make it easier to get into that sort of field.
“At the moment, he’ll struggle on that 62 (rating) and needs to win a race somewhere, and I think we’ll have to try and place him accordingly, but for now, he’ll back up in a fortnight’s time.”
While it was another good day in town for Williams, his attention quickly turns to the meeting at Goulburn on Tuesday, where he will team up with Quayde Krogh, who rides Jewel Approach and My Blue Jeans.