One of the proudest nights of Phil Williamson's career has come at a cost.
But the Kiwi trainer isn't letting that take the gloss off his Group1 double in the space of 35 minutes at Melton in Victoria on Saturday night.
Williamson produced Liberty Stride (3-year-old fillies) and Ultimate Stride (2-year-old boys) to record massive wins in their divisions of the Breeders Crown, the first winning by 19.4m — which seemed like a dramatic demolition job until Ultimate Stride nearly doubled that, winning his final by 37.8m after sitting parked.
That set up a Kiwi clean sweep of the only three trotting finals they contested at the rich Breeders Crown meeting. Kratos was a promoted winner of the A$80,000 3-year-old trot final after first-past-the-post All Cashed Up, who beat him by a nose, was relegated for galloping.
His win was the fifth Breeders Crown success for South Auckland trainer John Dickie but although he and son Josh had to have their little trotter trained to perfection to win, Williamson was still the star of the show.
Liberty Stride was unheralded just two months ago yet her development curve has been so steep she now rates as one of the most exciting young trotters in Australasia, but Williamson won't get to take her to the next level next campaign. Owner Emilio Rosati has decided to leave Liberty Stride in Victoria to be trained by Brent Lilley whereas Williamson will be bringing Ultimate Stride home.
"Emilio bought her [Liberty Stride] off us so he gets to make those choices and it is hard to argue with because there isn't a lot here for a 4-year-old trotting mare," says Williamson. "So if she qualifies for the Australian invite for the Jewels we might get her back but I'm sure what Emilio does with her long-term will depend on how she is racing."
Williamson was stoked by his first Group 1 double, especially after spending nearly six weeks in Australia training just the two horses.
"I think we had eight starts here for six wins, a second and gallop so they have really done us proud.
"I was pretty excited last night. Group 1s don't usually come easy but they absolutely bolted in so I had time to enjoy them."
Ultimate Stride's win was a bonus for Williamson who originally thought his juvenile season was over until Sydney-based Rosati talked him into tackling the Crown. "It was a real afterthought but he thrived on the trip and while it is only 2-year-old racing I think everybody can see he is a real open class trotter in the making."
Although all three New Zealand-trained trotters won their finals the pacers had to settle for placings. Best Western was second in the 3-year-old fillies final in which fellow Kiwi filly Princess Tiffany was surprisingly beaten into third after nothing went her way.
And the juvenile pacing boys pair of Perfect Stride and Zeuss Bromac were outpointed by the local star Be Happy Mach in their A$300,000 final.