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Match fitness is the only concern Oamaru trainer Phil Williamson has about star trotter Ultimate Stride returning to racing at Ascot Park tomorrow.
The 3yr-old will start for the first time since he trounced Australia’s best 2yr-olds at last year’s group 1 Breeders’ Crown Finals in August.
Ultimate Stride has spent much of his time since then recovering from a broken pedal bone.
The blueblood son of Love You and champion mare One Over Kenny has put the injury behind him and prepared for his return with two trials at Oamaru.
Though Ultimate Stride finished third behind Rydgemont Son and was unplaced behind Humble Ladd, but that did not worry Williamson.
"He is very well and even though he has been beaten in both of his trials I have been very pleased with him."
Ultimate Stride is clearly the horse to beat in race 8, a 2200m mobile, given the form of many of his rivals pales in comparison to his group 1 accomplishments.
But Williamson has been training long enough to know that racing is not quite that simple, especially when son Nathan has the talented Chinese Whisper in the race.
"I would like to think he could go out there and round them up, but it is not quite that easy.
"Race fitness would be my biggest concern.
"And there are some nice horses in there. Nathan’s one is a very nice horse in his own right."
Drawing barrier 8 under the preferential barrier conditions adds to Ultimate Stride’s challenge.
How keen the trotter feels for driver Matthew Williamson in his first start back could decide their early tactics.
"I probably wouldn’t like to see him rushing out early, but it could depend on how keen he feels behind the gate. But he will be getting around them at some stage."
Chinese Whisper has had two post-lockdown workouts to prepare for the race. The 4yr-old has not started since his third placing at Ascot Park in February.
Jimmy Carter gives Williamson a strong hand in race 8.
The 5yr-old bounced back to winning form at Ascot Park last weekend, after being pulled up in his two prior starts.
"I could see him running in the first four," Williamson said.
Davey Mac and Horse Of Course also race under 2200m mobile conditions for the Williamson stable in race 5.
Davey Mac will need to bring his manners after galloping out of contention behind Jimmy Carter last week, and Horse Of Course worked home stylishly to run third in the same race.
"Horse Of Course would be a good eachway chance. I think all of our team are good chances."
Williamson starts Miss Crazed and Day Dreamin in race 1, another 2200m mobile.
Miss Crazed produced a huge finish for second after galloping early in her last start behind Arc De Triomphe.
"She is going to be hard to beat if she trots the whole way."
Day Dreamin broke in her only start at Addington last month, but has s had two trials since.
"I was happy with her trial at Ashburton on Wednesday. She should go a good race."