Danny Williams still on cloud nine after Challenge Stakes

There were plenty of naysayers when Danny Williams accepted with Shelby Sixtysix in the Group 2 Challenge Stakes last weekend, but the Goulburn-based conditioner has had the last laugh.

In a field decimated by scratchings the five-year-old gelding surprised all comers by beating home champion sprinter Nature Strip and putting a scare into two-time Group 1 winner Eduardo, going down by just a neck on the line. Speaking with SEN’s Andrew Bensley on Monday morning, Williams was still reflecting on the effort of his son of Toronado.

“We’re still on cloud nine. We haven’t come down yet, it’s amazing,” Williams said.

“I really couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I’m a low key sort of fellow, I don’t get too excited but it was just running through me.

“I may not have shown it on the day, but it was electrifying and I’m dumbfounded.”

With Nature Strip jumping at the prohibitive odds of $1.70 and Eduardo at $2.30 you were entitled to put a line through the Williams galloper who started as the rank outsider at $61 in a four-horse field.

Even Shelby Sixtysix’s jockey Tim Clark seemed to be surprised by the effort of his charger as they crossed the line.

“I saw a photo of Tim looking over at Nash (Rawiller, rider of winner Eduardo) and Nash looking at Tim and the expression on Tim’s face was like ‘What the hell? I nearly had you’” Williams said.

Being a 68 rater prior to Saturday, the handicapper will now have plenty of thinking to do as to how much he raises in the ratings. Williams was happy to provide a bit of gentle persuasion to ensure his galloper ends up on right side of the ledger.

“There has been as much debate about his penalty as his run on Saturday I think,” Williams mused.

“Do you know the handicapper well? I’ve got a nice bottle of scotch or beautiful red wine here if he’s interested.

“We’ll just have to wait and see what happens when the dust settles and what the handicapper does.”

Saturday’s effort was the third run in 14 days with Shelby Sixtysix picking up over $158,000 over the course of that fortnight, but Williams wasn’t discounting a fourth run in the space of three weeks for his rock-hard fit campaigner.

“I wouldn’t like to get too far ahead of myself but we’ve thrown in a nomination for the Maurice McCarten on Saturday considering it’s still going to be wet,” Williams said.

“We’ve got plenty of options with him now that he has run a race like that. We’ll have to seriously think very smartly about what we do with him.”

Williams was full of praise for the initiatives that Racing NSW has created for country racing in the state, and was adamant these were adding to the quality of horses in the area.

“It just goes to show how strong country racing is coming through now with the inceptions of the Highways and Championships and Kosciuszko’s and such,” Williams said.

“When your horses are racing that well you’ve just got to have a throw at the stumps.”

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