Williamsburg ripe for Frank Packer Plate 2023

Champion jockey Joao Moreira doesn’t need much in the way of riding instructions, but he will be given one clear mission when he jumps aboard Williamsburg in the Frank Packer Plate.

The colt’s four wins have all come when he has been ridden off the speed and co-trainer Gerald Ryan wants to see the three-year-old revert to that pattern for Saturday’s 2000-metre assignment.

“Ride him back. I know there’s only going to be five or six in it and there’s going to be no pace on, but he has to be ridden quiet,” Ryan said.

“He’ll get a soft track, which he likes, but more importantly he’s got to be ridden quietly like he was as a two-year-old.”

Williamsburg won the Baillieu Handicap-Fernhill Mile double when coming from the back on heavy tracks last autumn before placing behind She’s Extreme and Fireburn in the Group 1 Champagne Stakes.

He returned to win the Dulcify Quality and was a fast-finishing third in the Gloaming Stakes but couldn’t hold off the challengers when racing handy throughout for fifth in the Spring Champion Stakes.

Ryan and training partner Sterling Alexiou tested him over a staying journey last start in the ATC Australian Derby (2400m) but the horse again found himself in the first half-dozen of the field and was a spent force turning for home.

“Both times he’s gone to his grand finals, he’s been ridden up on the speed,” Ryan said of the Spring Champion and Derby.

“He was never going to stay a mile-and-a-half when he was ridden that way.

“But I’m happy with him, he’s bright and well and fresh in himself.”

Ryan is also optimistic The Face can return to the winner’s list in the Catanach’s Jewellers Handicap (1200m) after two encouraging runs from a spell, the latest when placed behind the in-form Bacchanalia at Group 3 level.

A multiple stakes placegetter at three, The Face lost his way for a while but following an extended break, Ryan says the now five-year-old is showing signs he’s close to his best.

“He’s come back a totally different horse,” Ryan said.

“His work the last two Tuesdays has been as good as he’s ever done.

“If he performs well enough on Saturday he’ll go to the Takeover Target Stakes.”

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