Williamson back in familiar setting

Oamaru driver Matthew Williamson (left)  and supporters Jim Douglass (centre) and Andrew Spagnolo...
Oamaru driver Matthew Williamson (left) and supporters Jim Douglass (centre) and Andrew Spagnolo pose with a Nordic cold-blood trotter at the recent World Driving Championships in Sweden. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Oamaru driver Matthew Williamson returns to his home track tomorrow for the first time since venturing to Sweden for the World Driving Championships.

Williamson quickly adapted to European racing to score two wins in the series and finish sixth.

His better-than-midfield finish came despite the 28-year-old drawing a string of outside chances in the championship.

However, that did not take away from his experience.

"It was brilliant. I loved every minute of it. It was definitely the trip of a lifetime," he said.

Williamson will encounter much quieter surrounds at Oamaru than those he saw in Sweden

where passionate fans filled the grandstands for the Elitloppet carnival, which formed part of the championship. They lined the fences and cheered for both horses and drivers as if they were world-class sporting stars, Williamson said.

Williamson got a taste of that himself when he won with a Nordic cold-blood trotter on the final day of the series.

"The drivers are treated a bit like rugby stars are treated here. There were people lined up all the way down the straight at some of the meetings.

"The fans clap for the winners all the way back to the stables and they clapped for me when I won on the cold-blood. It was pretty unbelievable."

Randomly drawing poor horses make for hard work for the reinsman during the series.

However, he made the best of them to be in contention for much of the week-long competition.

"If you don't draw the horses, it doesn't matter who you are, you can't carry them.

"All of the drivers were top-class, so if they drew good horses they made the most of it."

Williamson racked up points from the first day of the competition after quickly adapting to Swedish racing.

"It didn't take too long to adapt. I thought it might have been a bit more tricky than it was.

"The horses were not that much different to ours. Even though they only race trotters, that doesn't mean they are a whole lot better gaited.

"There were still two of three galloping in the race."

Unlike in Sweden, Williamson was able to book his own drives for today's meeting. He engagements at Oamaru and rates several of his five drives as strong winning chances.

The Maroon Marauder, who starts in race 7, heads his book.

"He has been going really well and has drawn 1. If he is able to hold up early and stay handy he will be a good chance."

Williamson will also drive Breeny's Cullen from barrier 1 in race 8, the feature handicap trot.

Though the Noel Taylor-trained trotter does not have strong form, he could surprise in a race that appeared to suit to him, Williamson said.

"I thought that race would suit him and he could be a good each-way chance."

Trotter Liberty Rose broke in her first start out of the maiden grade at Ascot Park in her last race.

Williamson said he hoped she would behave herself tomorrow and that if she did she would be hard to beat.

Williamson described Liberty Rose (race 1) as an each-way chance and Winsomechange in race 2 as a rough hope.

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