Gayna Williams will have at least two runners in the $500,000 Country Championships final at Royal Randwick on April 2, following her stable’s domination of Sunday’s Central Districts qualifier at Mudgee.
Williams prepared race favourite Zoo Station (Anthony Cavallo) for victory, while stablemate Tags (Reece Jones) finished a very good second, beaten only 0.23 of a length and the pair beat home early leader Lockdown Gamble (Mathew Cahill), which finished third for David Smith when only beaten 0.38 of a length.
Williams was tickled pink with the result, praising her talented duo that finished the quinella in the $150,000 event.
“They went great, they tried very hard and are very genuine horses; they both have got plenty of ability,” Williams said.
Zoo Station started a well-supported $2.70 favourite at Mudgee, and she is currently on the sixth line of betting to win the final, with bookmakers quoting $11 for the Animal Kingdom mare to take out the rich final.
Williams had nothing but positives for her lightly raced five-year-old that has now won five times from 11 starts, earning connections over $200,000 in prizemoney.
“Geez, she is a wonderful, tough, honest mare and she wants to do it because she is a racehorse,” Williams said.
“Nothing fazes her. You will feed her and work her, and she sort of just says, ‘what next’ – that’s her attitude, she is wonderful.”
Following a 1200m Highway Handicap victory at Rosehill Gardens in January, Zoo Station finished second in a 1400m Benchmark 72 Handicap at Warwick Farm before heading into the qualifier a month between runs.
“We had planned today to have her fresh for this because she likes to race fresh,” Williams said.
“She has had a bit of time since her last run, and we trialled her Bathurst.
“She was due to trial on Tuesday at Bathurst again and we just gave her a good gallop instead and that seemed to work, and we just sort of trotted, cantered the rest of the week; a bit of treadmill work and that was all.
“She seems to have thrived off that and she always likes to be fresh.”
While Williams has a ready-made Country Championships horse in the form of Zoo Station, the talented but frustrating Tags will be there too after a phenomenal heat run.
The sidestep gelding missed the kick by five lengths, but Reece Jones weaved through the field with the pair flying home to finish an unlucky second.
“He wasn’t far away today, and he had a bit of ground to make up and he (Jones) had to use him up early and he did well,” Williams said.
“It was a good run and his last run at Dubbo was phenomenal and just an incredible effort, but he throws these races away, but he is certainly a very talented horse.”
Williams has tried everything with the four-year-old and the Bathurst trainer is consigned to the fact that Tags will never be a good barrier horse.
“We have a barrier extension for him, and we have had the winkers on, winkers off, breastplate on, then the breastplate off him today.
“It is just in his mind; he is a very insecure horse, and he is a follower, and he just waits for everyone to jump and follows them.
Williams also had El Mo (Kath Bell-Pitomac) in the race, and he finished 12th following an eight-week freshen-up and connections will now chance their arm in the Country Championship wildcard qualifier at Scone on March 20.
“El Mo is a bit rusty and has been out of it for a while, but we will see if we can head to the wildcard with him,” Williams said.
“He will be better for this run today. If he pulls up okay; and he comes first, we are on course for that.”
Readers wanting to check out full results from the Mudgee Central Districts qualifier meeting, they can click here.