Dark Horse (Nathan Williamson) winning the inaugural running of the Uncut Gems Trotters Classic at Addington in June. Photo: Race Images Christchurch
Southland trotting star on the rise Dark Horse is back in work and gearing towards tackling the country’s premier trotting race.
Her trainer, Nathan Williamson, says the last-start winner of the $40,000 Uncut Gems Trotters Classic at Addington in June is over a month in to her new preparation.
“She had nearly five weeks off and his been back in work for about a month.
“We are making no real plans with her at this stage, but we definitely have Christchurch and Cup Week as the main target.
“Both her and Poppymalda will be nominated for the Dominion Handicap ($300,000).”
Poppymalda returned from a long, injury-enforced layoff in May and has won three of four starts since, the most recent on July 15.
“She had 18 months off but has come back in good order.
“We’ve kept her up to the mark through winter and she will probably head up to Addington next month for the Ordeal Trotting Cup (September 16).
“She’s probably not too inferior to Dark Horse on her day.”
Dark Horse, however, is the probably the great, white hope for the Southland region, who are desperately in need of a star to hang their hat on.
The bonny daughter of Bacardi Lindy burnt up the tracks of Southland last season, winning six of her eight starts there, mostly in dynamic fashion.
She then travelled north to Canterbury and tasted the big time in the Harness Jewels at Ashburton on June 3.
She started favourite that day and finished a meritorious third in Group 1 mile, won by Wilma’s Mate.
Williamson says he was actually a touch disappointed with the effort and is of the thinking that short-course racing doesn’t really suit her.
“I thought it was a good run, but I was probably also a wee bit disappointed in the fact that she got a lovely trip and could have capitalised a wee bit better.
“It was in my mind she’s not really a natural short course horse, even though she has a lot of high speed.
“She likes to follow along and get a rhythm, which she can’t really do over a mile.”
Dark Horse is now assessed as a rating 100, which means getting a race off the ground for her in the deep south is going to be an unenviable task.
But Williamson isn’t panicking.
“I’m lucky in the fact that she doesn’t take a lot of hard racing to get fit; she’s naturally a pretty fit horse.
“In saying that, I am hoping to start her campaign off down here rather than go straight to Canterbury.
“It may well be that she has one run here off a big handicap, then a run in Canterbury, and then straight in to Cup Week.”
Aside from his two trotting mares, Williamson also has a couple of promising pacers he also hopes to have racing in Addington features.
“Tas Man Bromac is back in full work and I am really happy with him.
“I was so confident with him early last season – I thought he’d come up terrific.
“But we went up to Kaikoura and he got severely dehydrated and then he tore a muscle in his hind quarters which side-lined him for quite a while.
“He will race at the first meeting down here (August 27) and then I’m aiming to sneak him to Canterbury and have a look at some of those early features before the really big names step out.”
Williamson has a promising, three-year-old colt to look out for, too.
“He’s an unraced Christian Cullen called Franco Santino and we think he’s pretty nice.
“We may look at that Forbury Park Sires Stakes heat with him.”