And just for good measure, as if he can read a calendar backwards, Noel’s Gift returned off a long break this autumn to run second again in his home qualifier, charging home at 60-1 to earn another berth in the big final at Randwick. This time he finished well down the field behind the all-conquering Noble Boy.
Since then, Noel’s Gift has had two spaced runs: a close-up second in a Class 4 at Bathurst before right on the heels of the winner in third place three weeks ago in the stronger Gooree Cup at Mudgee.
That looks the right top-off race for the son of Zariz to finally return to the winner’s stall, but seven-year-old Tamworth gelding Present Sense and four-year-old Newcastle stallion Surjin should ensure there is little room for error in Tuesday’s battle.
Elsewhere on the card, Williams will try to spoil what looks almost a three-year-old fillies’ match race between Muswellbrook-trained Little Miss Nic and Wyong-based Soori in a Fillies & Mares Class 1 Handicap (Race 4) over 1200m with a five-year-old mare who hasn’t started for nearly two years.
Thin Ice, by Strada, last ran on July 15, 2017 as a three-year-old, winning her maiden second-up at Cowra despite being unwanted in betting.
Just when it looked as though her racing days were over, she came back to win a Dubbo trial two weeks ago, holding off a wall of runners from the front and reigniting connections’ flickering belief the best may still be to come.