Star WA pacer Magnificent Storm.
It is quite literally a lifetime since champion Western Australian trainer Ray Williams travelled a pacer to the Sunshine State.
Nearing 80 years of age, the multiple Group 1-winning horseman is in town with top WA pacer Magnificent Storm for a tilt at the Grand Circuit event of the 2023 carnival – the Blacks A Fake.
He is hoping for a bit more success on the track this time around, some 51 years since he first brought a standardbred across the country.
Bay Brigade was the horse Ray transported over with all those years ago, targeted at the 1972 Inter Dominion series for his father, Les.
Bay Brigade did not head home with much prize money but the Williams clan soon felt like they had won the Inter Dominion title when they arrived back home in WA.
Williams’ wife Dottie gave birth to their son Grant after being heavily pregnant during the interstate journey with Bay Brigade.
“I had a really good time, a mate of mine came with us, as did my wife,” Ray remembers.
“Soon after we had a son, who is 51 years of age now.
“It was a good time and hopefully we can have a bit more luck this time around.
“But, we certainly enjoyed our time in Queensland, it was really good.
“The horse did not handle the other way of going as it was back then.”
Grant was a key memory of Ray’s last trip and he has also been influential in the current trip.
Grant – a top gallops trainer in his own right – helped in the process in travelling the pacer interstate this time around.
In his own words, Ray was just starting out in the sport all those years ago in 1972.
He returns as a stalwart of the caper with a two-time Group 1-winner in his stable, who also boasts a number of other black-type triumphs.
Magnificent Storm’s managing owner Rob Tomlinson has had his eye on pinching some interstate feature prize money in recent years.
There was some talk of heading to the Inter Dominion in Melbourne last year but it was the Sunshine State and the 2023 Constellations Carnival that eventually became the gelding’s first look outside of WA.
He ran fifth in Group 3 Mr Feelgood on Saturday evening before aiming towards two elite level races over the coming fortnight.
“We have always wanted to take him away but it was about how it would fit into his campaign back home,” the part-owner said.
“You never really know how good they can be interstate until you test them.
“It was time for him as what he has been doing at home has been pretty awesome, whether that is enough for him to go awesome in Queensland – we are about to find out.”
According to Tomlinson, the Queensland winter carnival suited with two Group 1s in the space of seven days – the Sunshine Sprint and the Grand Circuit show-piece event.
Tomlinson has also travelled across the country to give his trainer a hand through the carnival.
Tomlinson, Williams and their star gelding are being housed at Luke McCarthy’s property on Brisbane’s outskirts.
Tomlinson also has pacers with the champion NSW-based horseman, which led to Williams landing a position in the powerful stable’s barn.
The Williams’ have had some outstanding pacers over the years, including Pacific Warrior, New World Order and Millview Sienna, but the 77-year-old rates Magnificent Storm as the top horse he has ever put a bridle on.
“Magnificent Storm is the best horse that we have had in our family, even though we have had some really nice horses over the years,” Williams said.
The statistics probably back up the trainer’s claims, as well.
Star WA pacer Magnificent Storm with Ray Williams and Rob Tomlinson.
He is a 32-time winner – including the Group 1 2022 James Brennan Memorial and Group 1 2021 4YO Classic in WA – as well as starting as the red-hot favourite in the inaugural The Nullarbor earlier this year, where he did not figure in the finish.
“You always need some luck when you head away from home as we are a long way from home,” the trainer said.
“He seems to tick all the boxes but that does not mean we are just going to come over here and win races.
“It is a learning curve for me and the horse but I am sure he will stand up. I am looking forward to seeing how he goes.”
Magnificent Storm started as the public elect in his first look around Albion Park on Saturday and took up the lead in the early stages.
He could not hold off the challengers in the finish and was almost nine metres behind the winner in the end.
Tomlinson and Williams agreed before the Mr Feelgood that whatever their runner did in his kick-off race in Queensland, he will only improve in his next two outings.
“In my mind, he is working as good as he has worked,” Williams said.
“I believe he will get better with each run.”
The son of American Ideal is an intimidating figure when he gets on the track – in a unique way – his trainer details.
“He looks a different horse on the race track, he is the only horse I have ever had that seems to grow a hand when he gets out there,” Williams said.
“He likes to show his presence.
“He stands up and is a proud horse when he is out there. People often come and see him after a race and cannot believe how small he is in person, they cannot believe it.”
Magnificent Storm heads to the $400,000 Blacks A Fake later this month with the $200,000 Sunshine Sprint on the way this Saturday night.
Star WA pacer Magnificent Storm.
By Jordan Gerrans