Dark Horse retired after going amiss again

By Frank Marrion, courtesy of the HarnessXpress

Nathan Williamson has been on quite a roll lately and that looks set to continue at Addington over Easter.

But he came back to earth with a thud on Monday when found Dark Horse to be lame.

“She’s gone in a third leg now and this one will be career ending,” said Williamson.

The eight-year-old initially did a hind leg suspensory after racing in the Dominion as a five-year-old, and after a long lay-off, she did a front suspensory in an unrelated paddock accident.

She was away from racing for almost two years as a result of those injuries and finally began a comeback a year ago, just in time for the lockdown.

Now she has done the suspensory in the other hind leg and she is at an age where there will be no coming back from that.

Williamson obviously put an awful lot of time and effort into getting Dark Horse back to the races, but says mostly he was disappointed for her.

“I think she deserved to win a Group 1 race because in her heyday as a four-year-old, she certainly looked like winning one at least,” said Williamson.

“She was ever so slowly getting back to her best this year after having so much time off and I was looking forward to Easter racing at Addington and the Trotting Championship.

“She won a Listed race (Uncut Gems 4yo) and set a New Zealand record at Addington a few months ago, but I don’t think her record will reflect just how good she really was.”

Williamson said he felt Dark Horse was the best horse he’s trained to date, and that includes Pembrook Playboy and Ragazzo Mach.

That will surprise some although he qualified that by saying that is an opinion based on what they have done to date.

“When she was at her best she had lightning speed for a trotter.

“That had been lacking this season, but she was getting by on her ticker and she was building nicely towards better things.

“It would have been good to have bowed out on a winning note in the Southern Lights, but it wasn’t to be.

“One Apollo had to go a track record to beat her there and she went almost a second faster in giving him a 10m head start.

“She worked brilliantly on Sunday and was heading back to Addington this week, but on Monday she was lame.

“I haven’t got a bad word to say about her – she was just a pleasure to train – and I’d love to have any of her foals in future.”

At least Williamson did get one decent last campaign out of Dark Horse.

After returning to the fray with a win at Ascot Park in August, where she came off 50m, Dark Horse raced 10 times this season for five wins, including two FFAs at Addington, while also being second in the G3 Summer Trotting FFA to Muscle Mountain.

She won over $54,000 and goes to stud with a record of 14 wins from 33 races for stakes worth $144,000.

She was raced on lease by the Griffins and Seafield Trotting Syndicates from breeders Bevan and Keith Grice.

The syndicates won’t get to breed her first foal, but they will get first option on each of her foals.

Taking up those options will be a given considering her dam Juliana produced Sarah Palin, Monty Python, Father Christmas and Dark Horse in consecutive seasons for the syndicates, that quartet winning 50 races in New Zealand alone.

And at least Williamson has an able replacement coming through in Chinese Whisper, who made a comeback of sorts himself when resuming with a win from 40m at Winton last Saturday.

“I set him for the Cup meeting, but he got crook on me and had to have a month out.

“He’s going to Addington next week for the mile race and will then line up in the Trotting Championship.”

Williamson also won with the good trotter Andy Hall at Addington last Friday night, after being freshened following his win on Cup Day.

“The trotting ranks have been quite strong down south lately and he likes the big track at Addington, so we’ve been targeting the good stakes up there.

“He’s quite competitive in that middle grade, but Chinese Whisper is next level.”

Chinese Whisper has won seven of his 13 races and the five-year-old is a brother to Group 1 winner Irish Whisper, who beat Stent in a National Trot in Auckland.

As such he is set to become the last of the ‘Sundon sensations’, although Williamson still has a two-year-old by Sundon that he really likes.

That is a chestnut gelding called Bob Barrelit, a half-brother to Spotlight The Valley.

Dark Horse might be gone, but Williamson tackles the Flying Stakes with Ragazzo Mach this week in what will be pretty much the Derby field, while Pembrook Playboy is also heading up next week for the Easter Cup along with Kiwitrix.

Ragazzo Mach will be improved by his latest outing at Addington, when second to Pace N Pride after starting from the nine hole, although he has drawn outside It’s All About Faith and Krug this week.

He will be cherry ripe for the Derby however and Williamson firmly believes it is a race he can win.

“When I began training him down I thought he was going to be just a very good ‘speedy squib’ and I doubted he would handle the longer trips, but I’ve had to change my tune as time has gone by.

“He looks like a speed horse because he has that very fast leg action, but Pembrook Playboy would actually leave him for dead for speed.

“He really impressed me the day he won at Winton by 10 lengths going 2.58 (for 2400m).

“It was really wet that day and he ploughed through the mud like a very good stayer.

“So if they happened to go 3.06 in the Derby again, I’d have no qualms at all, I’d just want to be handy enough to have a good crack at them.” 

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