Williams cleared to ride Big Duke in Chairman’s Handicap

By: Mark Mazzaglia
March 31st, 2017

Jockey Craig Williams has been cleared to ride Big Duke in the Group 2 $300,000 Schweppes Chairman’s Handicap (2600m) at Randwick on day one of ‘The Championships’ on Saturday.

Jockey Craig Williams, above on Big Duke in black and white checked cap, has been cleared to ride the gelding in the Chairman's Handicap at Randwick. Photo by Steve Hart.

Jockey Craig Williams, above on Big Duke in black and white checked cap, has been cleared to ride the gelding in the Chairman’s Handicap at Randwick. Photo by Steve Hart.

Williams was required to take a compulsory neuropsychological cogstate test today after suffering concussion as a result of him hitting the turf when his mount The Gold Trail collapsed shortly after the winning post in the Listed $300,000 Ladbrokes Mornington Cup (2400m) at Mornington last Saturday.

Racing Victoria consultant Dr Gary Zimmerman said on Friday that Williams was fit to ride on the weekend and as well as the Darren Weir trained Big Duke, he will be riding Rebel Dane for trainer Gary Portelli in the Group 1 $2.5m Darley T J Smith Stakes (1200m).

“Craig has recovered well from his concussion. He’s fully back to normal,” Dr Gary Zimmerman said on Friday.

“He’s passed his compulsory neuropsychological cogstate test and has had a clearance by Mr Greg Melham, neurosurgeon.

“And he’s fit to ride on the weekend, so I wish him all the best.”

Big Duke is chasing a hat trick of wins and another impressive performance will see him cement his spot at the top of the Sydney Cup market order at Ladbrokes.com.au where he is currently the $4.20 favourite.

Two starts back Big Duke scored a solid win in the Group 3 $200,000 Launceston Cup (2400m) at Launceston on February 22 and then took that winning form to Rosehill where he won, albeit on protest, the Group 3 $150,000 Irresistible Pools & Spas N E Manion Cup (2400m) on March 18.

Weir can’t fault the five year old who has travelled to Sydney from his Ballarat base in fine order and the premiership winning trainer expects him to run well again.

“Big Duke looks to be one of the main chances and he has had a great prep, very fit and very sound,” Weir said.

“He travelled up there well and obviously doesn’t mind the wet. Ticks a lot of boxes I guess.”

“He is in good shape the horse.”

Williams rode Big Duke when he handled the wet track conditions in the Manion Cup and the prospect of another heavy track doesn’t worry Weir.

The market order at Ladbrokes.com.au for the Chairman’s Handicap has Big Duke on top at $2.50 ahead of the Robert Hickmott trained English import Aloft at $4.50 and Kiwi stayer Rock On at $7.

English visitor Polarisation, who will carry the Godolphin royal blue colours, has had some support in the betting, firming in from $9.50 to $8.50.

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