Monday 29 July 2019

Stuart Williams: Still Pulling Rabbits

Stuart Williams has operated from various locations in Newmarket – Graham Lodge, Trillium Place and, most recently, Diomed Stables – since taking out a training licence in 1993. He saddled his first winner, Greenback, in a lowly median auction maiden stakes race at Lingfield in March, 1994, and has since established a reputation for coaxing the best out of horses of budget level. Timeform once called him, “A conjurer of a trainer. One who can transform an apparently moderate animal into a frequent winner.”

Williams has saddled several high-profile, and prolific, winners over the years. In 2004, Sendintank started the year on a handicap mark of 50, but won ten handicaps on a variety of surfaces and finished the year on a handicap of 91. Just for good measure, the Halling gelding also won the Ladbrokes Mallard Handicap at York, off a mark of 96, the following September.

That same year, the Williams-trained Exponential, who had finished last of 13, beaten 17 lengths, on his debut at Beverley six weeks previously, landed a gamble from 100/1 in 8/1 in the Wright Brothers Maiden Auction Stakes at Nottingham. A spokesman for Ladbrokes, who reportedly lost £160,000 on the race, said, “This is the biggest winning market mover on a single day's trade we can remember.” The victory didn’t go unnoticed by the Jockey Club, who launched an investigation into betting patterns surrounding Exponential, who traded as high as 280/1 on the betting exchanges at one point.

Hogmaneigh, whom Williams originally bought for £18,000, won five of his 36 races for the yard and amassed nearly £148,000 in total prize money. His victories included the Vodafone “Dash” Stakes on Derby Day at Epsom in 2007 and the Portland Handicap at Doncaster in 2008. Eton Rifles whom he acquired, as 6-year-old, from David Elsworth in October 2011. Eton Rifles won five Listed races for the yard, including the Prix Contessina at Fontainebleu three years running in 2012, 2013, 2014. More recently, Williams also saddled Royal Birth to win the totescoop6 Heritage Handicap at Ascot in 2016 and the Betway Hever Sprint Stakes at Lingfield in 2017.

Williams had his best season so far, both numerically and monetarily, in 2016, when he saddled 51 winners and amassed just over £580,000 in total prize money. He couldn’t quite match those levels in 2017, but has made a bright start to 2018, with 9 winners and nearly £125,000 in total prize money, to lie third in the trainers’ championship table.

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