Tuesday 27 September 2016

Ian Williams: Entraîneur Réticent

Ian Williams is the son of the late Billy Williams, who saddled Tom’s Little Al to win the Mercedes-Benz Handicap Chase, now the Betbright Chase, at Kempton in 1984. However, Ian was reluctant to follow in his father’s footsteps and, by his own admission, “fell” into training in his own right after working as assistant trainer to Jenny Pitman for three years. That said, he also spent six months with Martin Pipe and four years with Francois Doumen, so he wasn’t a complete hayseed when he sent up on his own, near Oxford, in August, 1996.

Shortly afterwards, Williams met Patrick Kelly, once described as “a very shrewd Irish demolition man”, but nonetheless ambitious, visionary and passionate about horse racing.
With Kelly as landlord and Williams as tenant, the pair developed Dominion Racing Stables, a modern, self-contained training complex in Alvechurch, near Birmingham where Williams has spent most of his 21-year career.

Having worked closely with Francois Doumen, Williams has an intimate knowledge of the French racing scene. Indeed, he saddled his first Grade 1 winner, Batman Senora, in the Prix la Haye Jousselin (Chase) at Auteuil in November 2003.

He also achieved success at the highest level, domestically, with Brewster in the Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury in 2004 and Wayward Prince in the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree in 2010. In 2016, Williams saddled his first and, so far, only winner at the Cheltenham Festival, when Ballyalton rallied well after being headed at the final fence to win the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase by half a length. Later that year, he also reached the milestone of 1,000 winners, when the aptly-named Appy Days won a ‘bumper’ at Lingfield.

Of course, Ian Williams is a dual purpose trainer. In fact, he has the distinction of saddling a winner at every single racecourse in the country, a task made easier, but by no means easy, by the fact that he trains in the heart of the Midlands. His notable successes on the Flat, at home and abroad, include Bulwark in the Chester Cup in 2008 and Sir Maximilian in the Meydan Sprint in 2015, to name but two.

In the 2016/17 National Hunt season, Williams saddled 46 winners and amassed £450,398 in total prize money, while in the 2017 Flat season he saddled 51 winners and amassed £617,338 in total prize money. All in all, he has over 90 horses in training at Dominion Racing Stables, including the once-raced Zoffany gelding The Statesman, who hacked up on his hurdling debut at Ludlow in October. The 4-year-old has no fancy entries at this stage, but remains one to keep an eye on in the future.