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Image: Bruno Cannatelli
The timing is right for Williamsburg to be given a Group 1 test

Trainer Gerald Ryan is relying on Williamsburg being the fresh horse on the scene as he attempts to thwart the triple crown hopes of star youngster Fireburn.

Having claimed the Golden Slipper and Sires’ Produce Stakes in emphatic fashion, Fireburn needs to add Saturday’s Group 1 Champagne Stakes (1600m) to become the first filly in three decades to capture the trio of two-year-old majors.

She is an odds-on favourite to complete the clean sweep and her presence has scared off rivals with just six juveniles accepting for the $500,000 race.

Among them is Williamsburg, who steps up to Group 1 level after winning his past two starts in stakes grade, including last weekend’s Listed Fernhill Handicap (1600m).

Ryan and co-trainer Sterling Alexiou did contemplate raising the bar sooner and sending Williamsburg around in the Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m) but figured the two horses who went on to quinella the feature, Fireburn and She’s Extreme, would have his measure over the shorter trip.

“I just thought, those horses in the Sires’ and those two fillies, they’re just too nippy for him over the 1400 on a back-up,” Ryan said.

“So I thought we’d give him two weeks into (the Fernhill Handicap) and then if he came out of it good, I would be a lot happier backing him up in the Champagne.

“You only get one crack at a Group One Champagne for two-year-olds, so we will see how he does.”

The only runner with experience at the distance, Williamsburg was rated an $8.50 chance with TAB fixed odds on Wednesday.

Kerrin McEvoy has ridden the Snitzel youngster in three of his five starts and sticks with him at Randwick and regardless of what transpires, connections believe the best is still to come.

“I know when Kerrin first rode him in a trial early on, he said no matter what he does as a two-year-old he will be a better three-year-old,” Ryan said.

 
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