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Grand old galloper Ahwahneechee chasing seventh heaven

3 minute read

The team behind grand old galloper Ahwahneechee have their fingers crossed that it might just be seventh time lucky come the Battle Of The Bush Final of 2024.

At nine years of age, Ahwahneechee has been a regular fixture in the series over the years, as well as qualifying for multiple Country Stampede Finals.

The veteran Emerald galloper booked his position in his seventh Final for a regional racing series by winning Thangool's BOTB heat on Saturday in dominant fashion.

Raymond Williams and his stable favourite have been desperately unlucky on the big stage in earlier trips to the city. 

Ahwahneechee has two placings in the Stampede decider on his resume to go along with a third-placed effort in the 2021 BOTB Final.

With 20 career victories and 26 placings to his name from 73 trips to the races, the old gelding is regular slugged with big weights – carrying 61.5kg to victory on Saturday.

"If he got a lighter weight in a Final, he might win one, as well," the trainer said with a laugh.

The lightest weight Ahwahneechee has carried in a BOTB Final was 58.5kg back in 2021 when he ran into the money.

For long periods of the 2021 Final, it looked like Emerald horseman Williams was going to claim the prize.

Williams' Ahwahneechee was over run in the closing stages – eventually being beaten just under a length – but he is back again this year.

Ahwahneechee bounced around to a handful of stables in the early stages of his career but he has most certainly found a home in Central Queensland with Williams.

A total of 15 of those victories have come with Williams preparing him.

Rockhampton hoop Ashley Butler also gets the best out of Ahwahneechee, riding him on 13 occasions for eight triumphs and three other minor placings.

The heavyweight rider was in the saddle on Saturday, the lethal combination scoring by a length-and-a-half as the race favourite.

There is no suggestion Ahwahneechee is getting tired legs as a nine-year-old either. 

"Butler said that he has felt as good as he has ever felt," Williams said.

"He goes good for Butler and he will come down and ride him in the Final."

Ahwahneechee is owned by Emerald local Garry Calvert who has been on the journey from the start.

Calvert will regularly travel to the city alongside the Williams barn for the Finals.

"He is happy as Larry, he is a beautiful old horse to do anything with," Williams said of Ahwahneechee.

"Garry is happy for him to have a crack every year and he will come down with us for the Final.

"Everybody loves the horse at the stables and Garry comes down and gives him carrots every day. He is a stable favourite, there is no doubt about it."

Like the majority of regional Queensland trainers, Williams juggles work commitments on top of his duties down at the stables.

A shift worker, Williams is in the mines around Emerald driving graders and bulldozers in an open cut mine.

Williams has enjoyed a strong start to the new year, preparing seven winners since the calendar ticked over to 2024.

In the other BOTB heat to kick-off the 2024 qualifying series, Toowoomba's Pat Webster punched his ticket to the big dance with Office Jim taking out the Goondiwindi event.

Office Jim was desperately unlucky to not claim the Country Cups Challenge Final last year as he was beaten just over a length by Olivia Cairns' Fire King.

Webster is a two-time winner of the Country Stampede Final with V J Day landing the prize in 2021 and Dynamic Verse the following year.

A total of 16 BOTB qualifiers will be held across the Sunshine State before the $200,000 decider at Eagle Farm in late June.

Racing and Sports

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