One of Australian racing’s spruik hoops, Craig Williams will get the chance to add another elite level title to his impressive record before 2011 is out having won the mount on class mare Ortensia in the Winterbottom Stakes this month as part of the Perth Summer Racing Carnival.
Earlier in the spring Williams missed out on the opportunity of lifetime, the chance to become the first jockey in history to ride the winners of all three of Melbourne’s spring Triple Crown features.
Having taken out the Caulfield Cup with Southern Speed and the Cox Plate with Pinker Pinker, suspension for careless riding saw Williams miss the subsequent winning ride on this year’s Melbourne Cup hero Dunaden.
There is still hope for more elite level glory, however, as he reunites with the now Paul Messara-trained Ortensia for the $1 million Group 1 Winterbottom Stakes (1200m) at Ascot on November 19.
Ortensia was an eleventh-hour entry for the Winterbottom after the news Peter Moody was sending his undefeated champion Black Caviar to the spelling paddock and would not be accepting for the Perth showdown.
“Things have changed very quickly in the past 24 hours,” Messara said.
“It’s been a very busy morning and I would imagine there are a few more trainers doing the same thing now that Black Caviar’s out.”
With 16 rides in the saddle of Testa Rossa mare Ortensia, Williams is looking forward to jumping aboard the now six-year-old for the first time since their disappointing seventh in the Group 1 The Galaxy (1100m) at Randwick in April of this year on a rain-affected Heavy (10) track.
At the peak of their partnership Williams and Ortensia combined to win the Winterbottom Stakes back in 2009 when the race only held Group 2 status and Ortensia was prepared by Tony Noonan.
After a six month break, Ortensia returned to the track in fine style winning the Listed G.H. Mumm Stakes (1100m) at Flemington on Crown Oaks Day, November 3, overcoming a wide barrier draw and 57kg weight with Darren Beadman aboard.
She will now look to continue the form in Western Australia with Messara confirming Ortensia is to fly out of Melbourne on Tuesday.
“Yes, she will be on the flight (to Perth) tomorrow night,” Messara said on Monday morning.
“She’s come through the (Flemington) run really well.
“I’m very happy with her.”
With superstar sprinter Black Caviar ruled out of Winterbottom contention, Ortensia looks a better chance of securing her official maiden Group 1 title.
Back in April last year Ortensia was first across the line in the Group 1 The Galaxy but had her win stripped when she was controversially found to have a banned substance in her system.
Williams may have missed out on riding Ortensia first-up on Crown Oaks Day, but he wasn’t going to miss out again for the Winterbottom with his manager Mark Guest passionately pursing the ride for him.
“They rang me,” Messara said in regards to Williams’ booking.