Danny Williams trio kicks off new season in hot Highway Handicap

William Pike and Bandi’s Boy will team up again in Saturday’s Highway Handicap at Royal Randwick. Inset: Danny Williams. Photos: Bradley Photos.

Goulburn trainer Danny Williams has every reason to be excited as he and his team welcome their stable of stars back to the racetrack in the coming weeks. 

While beloved country racing sensation Shelby Sixtysix won’t race until September 3 when contesting the Group 3 Concord Stakes at Royal Randwick, Williams will have the likes of Bandi’s Boy and Jalmari in action at headquarters on Saturday. 

“These are some of my better horses running on Saturday and we have Shelby Sixtysix ready to come back in a couple of weeks,” Williams said.

“There are some nice races ahead for these horses if they put their hand up, but we won’t set the bar too high, and we will see how they all come back first, without putting too much pressure on them but I do feel they are all in for a good preparation.”. 

On Saturday, Bandi’s Boy (William Pike), Jalmari (Tyler Schiller), and possibly Brazen Impact (Tim Clark) will contest the 1100m Class Two Highway Handicap, and all three gallopers are returning from spells. 

“They have all been out for some time,” Williams explained. 

“We picked this race out more so for Bandi’s Boy, knowing that three-year-old races at this time of the year are difficult, and on Saturday, he is back to a Class Two country race.

“The others weren’t really set for this race, but it looks a nice first-up race for both of them.”

Bandi’s Boy impressed many racing pundits back in April as a two-year-old, finishing fifth in the Group 3 Kindergarten Stakes at Royal Randwick, before coming out three weeks later when winning the two-year-old Schweppes Handicap over 1100m, again at Royal Randwick.

“I have always liked the horse, and we threw him in the deep end last preparation, as you can see with his form, and I wouldn’t normally do that if I didn’t think that highly of them,” Williams said. 

“The Kindergarten is a highly regarded race, and is traditionally a very strong race, and the third horse in that race (Spacewalk) has come out and ran second in the Rosebud (at Rosehill Gardens) over the weekend, so we are yet to see if the form fully holds up from that race, but it is looking good.”

Williams hasn’t pushed Bandi’s Boy too hard just yet, but he explained he would let the three-year-old’s form dictate his preparation.

“It is a bit difficult to say if he has improved. We never put him under the pump last time in, but we were very impressed with his work leading into his win, and he seems to excel in the wet,” Williams said. 

“This time in, the horse is a bit more mature mentally, but it is hard to say if he has come on, but either way, I think the horse will improve on whatever he does on Saturday. 

“I am a big believer that some two-year-olds need a preparation and turning out before they hit their straps as a three-year-old and I will leave it to the horse.

“We have two races pencilled in, but beyond that, we haven’t planned anything, and if he doesn’t do much in those two races, we will put him out and bring him back in the autumn, and I believe that is when you will really see the best of him.”

While Bandi’s Boy looks to be Williams best chance on Saturday, with The Brothers War gelding the current $3.60 favourite in the Highway Handicap, he believes that Jalmari ($21) and Brazen Impact ($16) deserve some respect. 

Jalmari finished second in the Carbine Club Stakes over 1600m at Royal Randwick back in April, and Williams was predicting big things from the four-year-old this preparation. 

“Jalmari has come back a slightly better horse,” Williams said. 

“We are only racing over 1100m on Saturday, and he is a real wet-tracker, but you will see him have a couple of nice starts as we step him up in distance to the right trip.

“With this race, we thought rather than barrier trial the horse, we would be better off giving him a nice run and this race is perfect. 

“He is a chance, and he is coming back from Group racing to country class racing and I’m excited to see how he goes.”

A first-up Brazen Impact is currently third emergency, and Williams said the spell did his four-year-old wonders. 

“He is in the same category as Jalmari. We never really planned this race for him,” Williams said.

“We have a race in mind for him next month, but again, rather than barrier trial him, this is the ideal opportunity to kick-start his preparation if he gets a run.

“He has come up really well. Last prep, he ran a good first-up fourth behind Shelby Sixtysix and he ran another two times on wet tracks and lost his confidence, but he has come back going a lot better and I’m looking forward to seeing what he can produce this time in.” 

With spring racing just around the corner and Royal Randwick hosting the first Group 1 of the new season on Saturday with the running of the $750,000 Winx stakes, the weekly Highway Handicaps are now harder than ever to win.

Many young, up-and-coming country gallopers are out to impress ahead of the $2 million The Kosciuszko, while trainers will also have the 2023 Country Championships in the back of their mind. 

For full fields on Saturday, click here.