YOUR first Group 1 winner is special to every driver, but this one had so many layers for Brad Williamson.
It came in another country, on his favourite horse, against odds that COVID-19 have created and in the most stunning fashion.
No wonder Williamson flourished his whip with a victory salute as sailed past the winning post aboard Majestic Man in the $50,000 Dullard Trotters’ Cup at Melton last night (Saturday).
The win also broke Majestic Man’s Group 1 hoodoo, finally snaring a win at the ultimate level at his ninth Group 1 attempt.
Trainer Phil Williamson would have been a proud many on so many different levels as he watched on TV from home in the South Island.
Much discussion went into whether it was worth all the effort, hassles, stress, paperwork and time to make Majestic Man’s Aussie raid happen.
It’s by fluke he’s the only Kiwi raider at this year’s rich Victorian Summer of Glory.
Brad Williamson put his hand-up to play caretaker trainer and driver for the trip, a not insignificant commitment given it meant almost two months away from home and a couple of weeks in quarantine when he does get back to NZ.
But that lure of a maiden Group 1 win was irresistible.
And it only took one race to justify it all.
Majestic Man used a great draw and his blazing early speed to lead and then Williamson drove to give nothing else – most notably his main danger Majestuoso – no chance from back in the field.
He ran the splits of the last mile in 29, 29.2, 28.2 and 29sec and cruised to a 10.8m win.
Majestic Man smashed the track record for good measure, his 1min55.4sec mile rate slicing 0.6sec off Keystone Del’s record.
“He’s never felt better than he did tonight,” Williamson said. “It didn’t feel like he was going that quickly. He got an easy first 500m or so and then I decided to let him run. When I knew Majestuoso was making run around the field, I really decided to take no prisoners.
“It was a big risk trying to get across here and some thought we were mad coming, but it’s a great way to start and there are lots more big races to come here for him.”
The next is only a few days away in Friday night’s Great Southern Star, Australia’s top trotting race.
Majestic Man’s odds were crunched from $4 to $2 with the Aussie TAB for the Great Southern Star after his Dullard Cup romp.
Williamson’s one query is the need to race a heat and final in the same night, but it’s the same unknown for most other runners as well.
“It’s the unknown the double heats, but he’s got such great gate speed and the short distance really suits him.”
Majestuoso pleased trainer Andy Gath in third spot despite having a late gallop for a few strides in the home straight.
“Kate said he lost a shoe, probably early on, and that might have contributed to him becoming unbalanced late, but he still showed all his great speed to come from late in a very quick quarter down the back straight,” he said.
“He’ll obviously need to improve again for next week given what we saw from Majestic Man tonight, but the barrier draws will be so important.”
Gath expects to have Majestuoso, McLovin and Monaro Maro in the Great Southern Star, with defending champion Tornado Valley seemingly running out of time after some niggling issues.
“I’d go for McLovin as our best hope because he’s been able to sit outside some good ones and win lately, but we know how good Majestuoso is when he gets the right run,” he said.
Kate Gath hopes McLovin and Majestuoso draw different heats so she can delay her choice until the final.
By Adam Hamilton