MICHAEL Barby is sure about one thing about It Is Billy.
Whatever he does this campaign, the Daylesford trainer has no doubt that his stable star will be even better this time next year.
It Is Billy might be seven years of age, but Barby says he is a young seven-year-old and “here to stay”.
It Is Billy steps out against the best in the business for the first time in the group 1 $120,000 PETstock Ballarat Pacing Cup, 2710m, on Saturday night.
In doing so he takes on Inter-Dominion champion Lennytheshark and New Zealand top gun Smolda – two of the measuring sticks in harness racing in Australasia.
While is an enormous ask for It Is Billy, Barby is anything but fazed by the proposition of not only putting his equine mate up against two of the biggest superstars on the track, but also going into battle with some of the biggest names in the industry.
These include Kiwi legend Mark Purdon, who is without peer, NZ ex-pat Anthony Butt, and three of the best trainers in Australia in Ballarat’s own Emma Stewart, David Aiken and Belinda McCarthy.
Barby always looks relaxed and even in what is a frantic build up to Australia’s premier country cup his persona remains the same.
There’s a real sense of anticipation about him as he shares the spotlight going into battle with heavyweights with a horse he broke in and has overseen in his racing career ever since.
For Barby, It Is Billy is far being a support act though.
Barby said It Is Billy had pulled up well after doing his share of work in Saturday’s Shepparton Gold Cup, when he worked to face the breeze before getting a sit.
While the gelding finished eighth Barby was not disappointed with the effort, given the first four all enjoyed runs on the pegs.
“He’s stepping up all the time,” Barby said.
He said It Is Billy was on a significant learning curve in a preparation in which he had already captured the group 3 Geelong Cup – a race in which he had the better of the likes of Ballarat Pacing Cup winner Im Corzin Terror.
Although he has contested group 1 company once before, that was as a four-year-old and hardly compares with the assignment facing him this time around.
Going into the Ballarat Pacing Cup, Barby says It Is Billy is the “new kid on the block”.
“He hasn’t raced in this class before.
“It’s a great field…great horses. It’s good just be amongst it.”
Although barrier 10 on the second row is not a dream draw, Barby is not fussed.
He said it meant It Is Billy could stay out of the hustle and bustle of what is likely to be hectic battle up front early.
“Hopefully we can get some cover and then a good cart into the race. If he needs to put in, he’ll do that too,” said Barby, who trains a team of seven.
It Is Billy goes into the Ballarat Cup with 17 wins in 46 starts for $154,000 in stakes.
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