Five-time Melbourne jockeys’ premiership winner Craig Williams has taken the lead in this season’s title race with a winning double at Sandown.
Williams is in a battle with apprentice Beau Mertens and put his nose in front courtesy of wins aboard Yogi and Gibbon on Wednesday while Mertens went winless at the meeting.
The Darren Weir-trained Yogi still appears a work in progress but has now put together back-to-back Sandown wins over 1600m and 1800m and Williams is convinced the best is to come.
“Whatever you see now, you’ll have a better horse in the spring and I think even more so in the autumn after that,” Williams said.
“He’s got all the potential to be a really exciting horse.
“He’s quite relaxed and casual for the first part of his races, but with the step up in distance he helped me a lot more today.
“When you ask him to go, he just takes a little bit of encouragement to go.
“If he actually helped the jockey and was interested from the start you could expect him to be straight into top grade.”
Yogi finished strongly as the $2 favourite in Wednesday’s OTI Gen X Handicap, a benchmark-70 race, to score by two lengths over The Willybe while Street Spun was another long neck away third.
“I don’t think anyone knows where he’s going to get to, this horse,” the gelding’s managing owner, Darren Dance, said.
“He’s still a young horse and he’s still maturing. If we look after him now, he might look after us later.”
Yogi, who began his career in New Zealand, has won four of his 13 starts.
Williams took the premiership lead when Gibbon got home in a close finish to the Hyland EOFY Sale Handicap (1000m).
“It’s a great tussle and it’s great for racing,” Williams said.
The meeting was a significant one for apprentice Jordan Childs who outrode his claim with victory on Azurite in the final race.
Childs, who finishes his apprenticeship at the end of July, had been stuck one short of the milestone since winning The Straight Six on Tashbeeh on May 20.
“I’ve finally done it,” a relieved Childs said.