Five weeks ago, Shelby Sixtysix was running around in Class 2 Highway races. Fast forward three weeks and he’s a Group 1 winner. Fast forward two more weeks and he’ll be running around as a $5.50 chance in the Group 1 TJ Smith Stakes (1200m) at Randwick on Saturday.
Shelby Sixtysix’s rise to prominence definitely wasn’t an expected one according to trainer Danny Williams, with the Goulburn-based trainer just hoping to get into the Country Championships.
“We weren’t able to get him into the Nowra Country Championships due to his rating being too low, we pushed towards the Scone wildcard race and when he won at Randwick in the Highway we were a bit upbeat about getting there and thought he may have warranted enough weight or ratings to get into that race,” he said.
Instead, Williams gave his horse a speculative run in the Challenge Stakes on the advice of his manager.
“My manager Andrew Northridge said, ‘Why don’t you throw that horse Shelby Sixtysix in? I haven’t got much coming up for him over the next couple of weeks,'” the trainer added.
“It came along by chance, not by good planning and I did a bit of homework and there’s only been an average of six runners in the Challenge Stakes, so I thought it’s a good race to run him, track will be wet and he backs up seven days later and gets the opportunity to pick a bit of prize money up.”
Williams did concede that he thought he was just going along for the ride and didn’t go out there thinking Shelby was going to be competitive.
“Took a bit of guts to throw him in the deep end like that because we were on a hiding to nothing as tipsters were suggesting he should’ve been $201,” he said.
“By chance and luck it’s turned out what it is today, without that we wouldn’t be here in this position.”
When asked if Shelby Sixtysix is just a genuine wet tracker or there is a big improvement there, Williams said: “He’s always had ability but we haven’t been able to get the extent of that ability out of him because up until the last few weeks he’s only had limited opportunities to run on heavy tracks and had him running on much dryer surfaces and never had him 100% fit.”
After his Group 1 win in The Galaxy a week-and-a-half ago, Williams said the horse is in career-best condition.
“He pulled up the best he’s ever pulled up, the best I’ve ever seen him, and I don’t think he’s ever come out of a race as good as he did,” he said.
“To see him come through as good as he has after a race like that is a bit frightening.”
Williams also said that the two-week gap between runs probably isn’t ideal for a horse that is used to a quick backup.
“I’d much prefer him going in week after week because he’s such a gross horse and he needs that sort of work, he needs that racing because his capacity to be able to come through a run and cope with that sort of pressure is so great the horse tends to bounce back very quickly and he tends to thrive and he appreciates it and enjoys it,” he said.
Barrier 10 isn’t an issue for Williams either, saying it’s a perfect gate for him with star jockey Tommy Berry on board.
“Good barrier, great barrier, fantastic barrier,” he said.
“He’ll be well positioned with Nature Strip on the outside, gives us a horse to follow across and I know that ‘J-Mac’ [James McDonald] won’t be in too much of a hurry to cross the field with Nature Strip, so he’ll ride the horse the way he’s been riding the horse.
“It keeps us out of trouble and he likes a bit of space our horse and it’s just a perfect barrier.”
If he pulls up well and is competitive in the TJ Smith Stakes, the Group 1 All Aged Stakes (1400m) at Randwick in two weeks’ time will most likely be the next assignment for Shelby Sixtysix.
“Providing that he’s competitive in the TJ and pulls up well, we’ll look at running him in the All Aged Stakes,” Williams said.
“I think he’s looking for the 1200m to 1400m. It’s another weight-for-age race as well, so back at Randwick and once we get there I imagine we’ll give him a week in the paddock, then we’ll look at sending the horse to Queensland for the Kingsford-Smith Cup or the Doomben 10,000.”