Williamson driving quality at Winton

By Jonny Turner

New Zealand Cup contender Franco Santino heads a strong book of drives at Winton on Thursday for Nathan Williamson.

The 6yr-old drops back in class after chasing home Classie Brigade in last weekend’s Hannon Memorial.

Franco Santino blew the start of the group 3 feature and was left at the back of the field as the winner reeled off a scintillating 54sec last 800m.

Williamson hopes the pacer can reproduce the kind of run that saw him set the Winton mile (1609m) track record at 1.52.0 when he starts from behind the mobile in race 8.

“If he is going to go to the cup you would want to see him pretty hard to beat on Thursday,” the trainer-driver said.

“Once he missed away at Oamaru he was never going to catch Classie Brigade running a 54sec half [800m].”

“He had a good blow afterwards – we had a pretty tough week of weather before the race and I am not making any excuses – but should be better for the run.”

Williamson needs to get a good line on his horse ahead of the New Zealand Cup and he will he should get one when he puts Franco Santino right in Thursday’s race.

“He has got good gate speed, but it will depend on what the others are doing inside me are doing.”

“Either way he will be going forward at some stage.”

Mach Quillan looks a strong chance in race 4 for Williamson following his second placing behind smart winner R K Finn at Winton earlier this month.

The 4yr-old takes on the Jonny Cox trained and driven first starter, Sportscam, who looks to be the Matt Brinsdon trained 4yr-old’s biggest threat.

“I was pretty happy with the way he went first up, he just peaked on his run,” Williamson said.

“I imagine he has improved off that and he should be hard to beat.”

Williamson will pair with trainer Chelsea Faithful’s pairing of Tartan Roxy and Toby O’Gara on Thursday.

Toby O’Gara, who starts from barrier 1 in race 9, suffered a heart fibrillation in his last start but the reports about his recovery have been good.

“Chelsea has been rapt with his work and he has come up with a good marble,” Williamson said.

“His form before his last start was great, so going on that he should be a good chance.”

Tartan Roxy was won and run second in her two workout appearances ahead of her first start from Faithful’s stable.

Williamson thinks the 6yr-old, who starts from barrier 8 in race 5, can go a cheeky race despite having been away from the races since April of last year.

“Chelsea has had hers since lockdown and has really put a good base in to her.”

“She won her workout pretty easy, she led them up and won nice.”

“From her draw she is probably going to have to go back, but I thought if she could get on the [three-wide] train at the right time she could be a winner.”

Williamson also drives a pair of horses for trainer Lyndon Bond in The Peaky Blinder (race 7) and Tweedledee (race 10).

The Peaky Blinder disappointed in his last start after going agonisingly close to winning his prior run at Ascot Park.

“Bondy said he has been quite happy with the horse and he has trained on good after his last run.”

“He is best with one run, so we will try to hide him away.”

Tweedledee was a good winner of his last start, but faces a tougher test when clashing with Chloe Rose, Rydgemont Son and Humble Ladd on Thursday.

Williamson also drives outside hopes Major Menace in race 2, Bardot in race 6 and Dangerous in race 11.

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