Peter and Dawn Williams will take on the Karaka Millions meeting’s two hottest favourites with their pair of runners at Ellerslie’s eagerly anticipated twilight blockbuster on Saturday.
The Byerley Park trainers’ last-start Group One winner Desert Lightning will line up against $1.50 favourite Legarto in the inaugural running of the $1 million Elsdon Park Aotearoa Classic (1600m), while Just A Floozie brings fascinating form credentials into her clash with the undefeated $1.30 favourite Crocetti in the Gr.3 Cambridge Stud Almanzor Trophy (1200m).
This will be the second appearance at the Karaka Millions meeting for Desert Lightning, who the Williams team bought for $150,000 from Little Avondale Stud’s draft in Book 1 of Karaka 2021.
The son of Pride Of Dubai lined up against a star-studded field in last year’s Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m), finishing a close third behind Prowess and Wild Night. Beaten favourite Legarto was just behind him in an unlucky fourth.
The stage is set for Saturday’s rematch between Legarto, Wild Night and Desert Lightning, and Peter Williams has been pleased with the latter’s progress since his last-start success in the Gr.1 TAB Classic (1600m) at Trentham on December 9.
“Everything’s fine with him,” he said. “He’s done everything right since that win at Trentham last month and we’ve been very happy.
“He had an exhibition gallop at Ellerslie the other day with Crocetti and I thought he looked super that day. He worked with a very good horse who’s a $1.30 favourite in his race, and it was really good work by both horses. It showed us that we were on track.”
Desert Lightning will again be ridden by Vinnie Colgan, who has been in the saddle for 12 of his 15 career starts. He will jump from gate 10 in a 13-horse Aotearoa Classic field, and the TAB rated him a $12 third favourite on Friday morning behind Legarto and the Australian-trained Holymanz ($9).
“The draw is what it is,” Williams said. “He drew wide at Wellington last start too and was able to overcome that, so hopefully it won’t be too much of a disadvantage.
“Legarto is clearly the hardest to beat, but he ran a top race against her in the 3YO on this day last year. We’ll see what happens on Saturday.”
Just A Floozie, meanwhile, is by Australian super-sire I Am Invincible out of the Group One-winning mare Thee Auld Floozie. She was bred by Jamieson Park, who remain in the ownership after she was passed in at Karaka 2022.
In her only previous start, Just A Floozie scored a stylish win in the Avondale Classic (1200m) in April of last year. The second, third and fourth placegetters were Orchestral, Molly Bloom and Still Bangon, who have all made their mark at black-type level as three-year-olds this season. Orchestral and Molly Bloom are the two favourites for Saturday’s $1.5 million TAB Karaka Millions 3YO (1600m).
“Just A Floozie beat some good horses in that two-year-old race on debut,” Williams said. “She was held up a little bit through the spring, but I think that extra time has done her good and she’s a better horse now.
“It might have helped if we could have got another run into her before this race, but we didn’t manage to do that. She’ll improve with the run, but she looks well.
“Crocetti is obviously a very smart horse, but when this filly is right, she’s pretty smart too.”