Williamson the tactician is ready for Final
By Garrick Knight
When you talk to Brad Williamson, it quickly becomes apparent that he has an aptitude for race tactics.
He’s a student of the game. Does his research. Knows his opponents and what he needs to do to beat them.
So, it’s no surprise that he has a clear idea in his head ahead of Saturday night’s $150,000 Inter Dominion Trotting Grand Final at Alexandra Park.
Williamson drives second-favourite Majestic Man for his father, Phil and they face a rather daunting task trying to beat the even-money pop Winterfell, and Mark Purdon.
“Just at the moment, Winterfell appears to be in the zone and I don’t think any trotter could sit outside him and beat him,” Williamson says.
With that statement he’s justifying what was a meritorious effort by Majestic Man to run third after sitting parked outside Winterfell in a New Zealand record in the final heat last Friday night.
This week is a different kettle of fish though – both horses are drawn well and Williamson fancies his chances of finding the markers first. But it’s not as much of a formality as many might think.
“It’s a tricky one because obviously Majestic Man has super gate speed, but Winterfell is also a lot quicker than people realise.
“I had trouble crossing him in the Northern Derby and I wasn’t able to get across him when we were drawn side by side in another race.
“That being said, Majestic Man is in the zone and the markers are the place to be so I have to get there.”
Williamson confirmed his father had given him a clear directive accordingly.
“Dad mentioned to me that he does want me to cross and, realistically, looking at the race, that’s the only way I could see us winning.”
But the lead isn’t something Williamson wants, either. In fact, he wants the trail.
“I don’t think he’ll be able to lead and win in this race.”
So, does he hand to Marcoola and put Winterfell three back, or is he expecting Purdon to immediately come out and challenge for the front?
Honestly? he doesn’t especially care.
“Both Winterfell and Marcoola are stayers and when they find the front won’t be giving it away.
“So, we’ll be handing up to which ever is the first of them to come looking.
“And I’m 90 percent sure that will be Winterfell.”
Williamson is banking on his horse’s sheer speed coming to pass in one last stretch battle.
“Majestic Man is as fast as anything in the race over a quarter but I’m picking Mark is not going to leave it to a sharp sprint home.
“It’s not going to be a slowly run race, that’s guaranteed being an Inter Dominion Grand Final.
“Winterfell broke the New Zealand record under a hold last week and probably had a couple of seconds up his sleeve, too.”
Even then, it will be out of Purdon’s hands anyway as a bevvy of decent trotters try and get in to the race from wide or second line draws, primarily Marcoola.
“It’s not really going to affect me, what the other horses do, because the markers are the place to be in this race.
“But, being a Grand Final, I don’t think everybody is going to be sitting back and not moving.”
Outside of the big three, Williamson reckons Temporale, who maps to sit four pegs for most of the race, could be the blowout option.
“Looking for an outsider, Temporale has got the best draw of the others outside of Winterfell, in my opinion.
“He’s drawn to sit on the markers on a likely record run and all he’ll need is a wee bit of luck of the last 800 metres.
“And you’d back Tony Herlihy, out of anyone, to find a path through them.
“He knows the track better than anyone and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him take advantage of a cold shot at them.”
With all the planning and thinking done ahead of time, Williamson was looking forward to getting up to Auckland and just taking it all in.
After all, he’s a live chance of joining the greats of the game – Anthony Butt, Mark Purdon, Gavin Lang, Tony Herlihy, Barry Purdon, Doody Townley, David Butt, Peter Jones – as the winning driver in an Inter Dominion Trotting Grand Final.
The annals of harness racing history await the lad from Oamaru.
“There is just something about it that I’m really looking forward to.
“The Inter Doms are all anyone is talking about at the moment and I’m privileged to be a part of it.”