Williamson back at home base on Sunday
By Jonny Turner
Oamaru driver Matthew Williamson will return to his home track for the first time since enjoying the trip of a lifetime to Sweden for the World Driving Championships on Sunday.
Williamson quickly adapted to European racing to score two wins in the series and finish sixth.
His midfield finish came despite the 28-year-old drawing a string out outside chances in the championship.
That did not take away from his experience, which Williamson labelled the trip of a lifetime.
“It was brilliant, I loved every minute of it, it was definitely the trip of a lifetime.”
Williamson will be met with much quieter surrounds at Oamaru than he saw in Sweden.
Passionate Swedish racing fans filled the grandstands for the Elitloppet carnival, which formed part of the championship.
They lined the fences and cheered for both horses and drivers like they were world class sporting stars, Williamson said.
The Oamaru driver got a taste of that himself when he won on a cold-blooded trotter on the final day of the series.
“The drivers are treated a bit like the Rugby stars are treated here.”
“There were people lined up all the way down the straight at some of the meetings.”
“The fans clap for the winners all the way back to the stables and they clapped for me when I won on the cold-blood, it was pretty unbelievable.”
Unlike in Sweden, Williamson was able to book his own drives for today’s Oamaru meeting.
Randomly drawing poor horses make for hard work for the reinsman during the series.
Williamson made the best of his drives to be in winning contention for much of the week-long competition.
“If you don’t draw the horses, it doesn’t matter who you are, you can’t carry them.”
“All of the drivers were top class, so if they drew good horses they made the most of it.”
Williamson racked up points from the first day of the competition after quickly adapting to Swedish racing.
It was a transition that took much less time than he anticipated.
“It didn’t take too long to adapt, I thought it might have been a bit more tricky than it was.”
“The horses were not that much different to ours.”
“Even though they only race trotters, that doesn’t mean they are a whole lot better gaited.”
“There were still two of three galloping in each race.”
Williamson has five drives at today’s meeting and rates several of them strong winning chances.
The Maroon Marauder, who starts in race 7, heads his book.
“He has been going really well and has drawn 1, if he is able to hold up early and stay handy he will be a good chance.”
Williamson will also drive, Breeny’s Cullen, out of barrier 1 in race 8, the meeting’s feature handicap trot.
Though the Noel Taylor trained trotter does not bring strong in to the event, he could surprise in a race that looks suited to him.
“I thought that race would suit him and he could be a good eachway chance in that.”
Liberty Rose broke in her first start out of the maiden grade at Ascot Park in her last start.
Williamson said he was hopeful the trotter would behave herself tomorrow and that if she did she would be hard to beat.
Williamson described Liberty Rose in race 1 as an eachway chance and Winsomechange in race 2 as a rough chance.