Craig Williams gets the chance to continue his hot spring form with Ortensia in the Winterbottom Stakes
Redemption will be Craig Williams’ driving force when he is reunited with Ortensia in tomorrow’s $500,000 Group 1 Winterbottom Stakes (1200m) at Ascot in Perth.
The hot Victorian jockey has already “won” a Group 1 aboard the classy six-year-old, last year’s Galaxy at Randwick, but was later stripped of that race after returning a positive swab due to contaminated feed.
It pains Williams that one of the best sprinting mares he has ridden is not a Group 1 winner and he is keen to rectify that when he strives to continue the form that saw him the standout rider of this year’s Spring Racing Carnival.
“Getting back that Group 1 that we lost when she won the Galaxy would be good,” Williams said. “She lost it on an irregularity in her feed, so she should already be touted as a Group 1-winning mare.
“For me, it would be very rewarding to get it back now that the Winterbottom is a Group 1 race.”
Ortensia is a proven performer in Western Australia, having won the Winterbottom Stakes in 2009 when she was trained by Tony Noonan. This year’s Winterbottom will be the first run at the highest level.
The daughter of Testa Rossa showed she was back to her best with a dominant first-up win in the Listed G.H. Mumm Stakes (1100m) down the Flemington straight on Oaks Day at what was her first start for Scone trainer Paul Messara.
Darren Beadman had the ride that day, but Williams was a more-than-interested onlooker and liked what he saw from the mare who he has partnered to five of her nine career wins.
“I won the race on her two years ago and the way she’s raced this preparation, how dominant she was at Flemington, it looks like she’s got the same form again,” Williams said.
“She’s drawn great in barrier two. On paper, there’s not as much pace as there was two years ago when she ran the record (time), it doesn’t look like they’re going to go as fast this year, so she looks great in that field from that draw.”
Ortensia is the $2.20 favourite in TAB Sportsbet’s Winterbottom market. Another eastern-stater, the Peter Snowden-trained Rarefied is the $5.50 second elect with Grand Nirvana ($7) and Kid Choisir ($7.50) considered the pick of the locals.
Ortensia is one of two chances of further Group 1 glory for the Caulfield Cup and Cox Plate-winning rider, who will partner Victorian mare Avienus in Saturday’s other Group 1, the $1 million Railway Stakes.
The Mark Webb-trained six-year-old has drawn barrier 10 for the 1600m event and Williams said she only needs to run up to her Spring Racing Carnival form, which included a close second in the Group 1 Caulfield Stakes (2000m), to be a factor.
“If she takes her Melbourne form over to the west on Saturday she’ll definitely make her presence felt in that race,” Williams said.
Williams also has a good ride in the day’s key support race, the $350,000 Group 2 Western Australian Guineas (1600m), in which he will partner the Trevor Andrews-trained King Saul, who has won two of his three starts.