Cool Day Turns Hot At Winton

Cool Day Turns Hot At Winton

Bruce Stewart

The main pacing race at Winton today, the Ultimate Machete At Alabar Handicap Pace certainly lived up to its pre-race hype, featuring the return of  unbeaten pacer U May Cullect, Harness Jewels place getter Robyns Playboy and an in form Franco Santino.

In what proved to be a very tactical race it was the Nathan Williamson trained and driven Franco Santino from a twenty metre handicap that prevailed.

Robyns Playboy (20 metres) was a length and a quarter back in second while favourite U May Cullect (50 metres) was two and a half lengths back in third.

“Rapt with him. He’s just kept stepping up in the last few weeks. We’ve been thrilled with the way he’s been training. He’s always been a picky eater but now he’s starting to lick his bowl and he’s healthy. I think he may have matured and turned the corner a little bit,” Williamson said after the win.

He attributed the win to Franco Santino’s good beginning and his move to come off the inside running line with a 1000 metres to run.

“The key to it was we did have a head start on our main rivals. I was going to be hemmed three back on the inside. I had a look and saw that they (the field) were well strung out. The plan was to keep them running and make them earn every step of their handicap. As is worked out that move probably won him the race.”

Returning to the birdcage

Williamson will now consider the Hannon Memorial for the five year old Christian Cullen entire which is owned by Riverton fisherman Neville Cleaver.

Ollie Kite, Neville Cleaver and Nathan Williamson with Franco Santino

“He seems like he’s (Franco Santino) in a good place so we’ll probably look at that now.”

The winning time of 2-57.3 was just outside the track record for geldings and entires. ( 2-57.1 held by Royal Bengal).

Gore trainers Ross and Chris Wilson were also pleased with the performance of second placegetter Robyns Playboy. His time for the 2400 metres was a very creditable 2-57.6.

“I was real rapt. It was a bit of a step up for him really to see how he would measure up. He made a wee bit of a hash after the start and had a buck or two which didn’t help,” said co-trainer Ross Wilson.

He said Robyns Playboy is a naturally athletic horse and was ready for today’s season opener.

“It didn’t worry him. He didn’t blow after. He’s quite happy because he tried to kick Chris afterwards.”

The Wilson’s also plan to head to the Hannon at Oamaru in a fortnight.

“I think all the Purdon – Rasmussen horses look as though they’re going this year but we’ll just hide him in the field somewhere and see whether he runs home. It’ll tell us whether we’re going to carry on or not. I think he’s a stayer and is better covered up. In a lot of his races so far he’s been doing a lot of work.”

Favourite U May Cullect’s run for third was one of the big talking points of the race.

The six year old gelding was privately timed to run his last mile in 1-53.3 and last 800 metres in 53.1. He was credited with an overall time of 2-55.7 for the 2400 metre stand.

Driver and co-trainer Kirstin Barclay was thrilled with the run as it was the gelding’s first start since winning the Uncut Gems at Addington in the middle of June.

“He got a bit keen in the preliminary. He was just on the fresh side but as soon as he got round to the start he just walked round like an old campaigner,” she said.

The gelding made a slow but safe beginning from the 50 metre mark.

“He just sort of froze when the tape went but he stepped safely. I just can’t wait to get him lining up with horses now off a level mark because I think he’ll come out with them.”

U May Cullect was always going to have to work from the back mark and he got well off the pace early.

“A lap out I had to give him a slap on the bum because once he’s in the race he just goes to sleep. He’s just an incredible horse.”

Maidonthebeach leads heading to the 1000 metres, with U May Cullect at the rear.

Barclay moved the Gotta Go Cullect gelding forward from the 800 metres with twelve lengths to make up on the leader Franco Santino.

“At the quarter I thought if I chased him with the stick we could have got closer but he’d done so much. There’s bigger races coming up. I’ve never been so thrilled to run third. There was still a bit left in the tank. He’ll take a lot of improvement out of the run because he’s only had one private run prior to today.”

U May Cullect ran home nicely under his own steam and was the only horse making ground in the very fast run race.

He too has the Hannon on his radar.

“I’m looking forward to racing off level marks. I think his forte is coming off their back with the speed he shows.”