No place like home: Craig Williams intent on protecting own turf after jet-setting ways   Leave a comment

No place like home: Craig Williams intent on protecting own turf after jet-setting ways
Date
March 27, 2015 – 6:00PM
Adam Pengilly

Look up the definition of “international jockey” and there is likely to be Craig Williams’ freckled, smiling face staring right back at you. Never has the term “globetrotting” been so frequently connected to one’s name it seems.

Yet there is one statistic that perhaps sits most fondly. It has nothing to do with the group 1 wins he has snagged in Britain, France, Dubai, Hong Kong or Japan. It is all about what he has achieved at home – in front of family he reluctantly waves goodbye to for months on end each year.

Most didn’t realise it, but Williams’ Rosehill Guineas win on New Zealander Volkstok’n’barrell last week was unique for more than just a stud going bananas in the mounting yard after a gelding – yes, a gelding – they had bizarrely and astutely bought into had won his first major.

The great traveller: Jockey Craig Williams has succeeded at every turn.
The great traveller: Jockey Craig Williams has succeeded at every turn. Photo: Getty Images
It was the 37-year-old’s first major in almost a year – coincidentally earned on the same program when Gordon Lord Byron won the George Ryder Stakes – preserving an amazing record of winning a group 1 in Australia for a 10th straight season.

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“But I look at it and say, ‘oh wow, there’s some seasons where you can have three or four’,” Williams said. “Sometimes you have a really good run and if you’re lucky enough to still get one, you just realise those group 1s are very, very difficult.

“Everything needs to fall into place – not just for me as a rider – and obviously I’ve been very fortunate for the past decade to have had the right horses.”

Perhaps with more international appeal than any other Australian jockey, Williams can still be referred to as a walking encyclopaedia on international racing. He diligently watches the graded races in Japan every weekend on his laptop.

This year is going to be a little different though. His kids are going to have a dad they’ve been yearning for each winter at home rather than him being away chasing the yen. Williams has a Melbourne premiership to plunder while making a rare appearance at the Adelaide and Brisbane carnivals.

“Circumstances change as time goes on and things change around you,” said Williams, who has answered the jockey shortage call to ride in Hong Kong on Sunday.

“My children are growing and to be away for two months, it’s got to be one of those things where it’s extremely worthwhile to justify to be away from your family for that period of time.

“It is a great opportunity if you’re lucky enough to get a licence under the JRA [Japan Racing Association]. For me, this time I didn’t apply after I weighed up things.”

Instead, the Japanese have come to Williams. Not straight to him – technically – but at least on his semi-permanent patch. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that Williams is actually riding against them, rather than for them.

Yasutoshi Ikee has favourite To The World, a Nick Hall mount, making his Australian debut in the $1.5 million The BMW at Rosehill on Saturday. To Williams, he is just “Ikee san”, the man who sponsored him for four of the past five years he has ridden in the land of the rising sun.

Williams can talk for hours about his fascination with Japanese racing. The breeding framework, the box limit for every superstar trainer, the rock star promotion of the horse.

And then there is the case of To The World, Williams’ main obstacle to his mount and Melbourne Cup hero Protectionist finding form in The BMW.

“On form in Japan, he’s the best horse they’ve brought out here,” Williams said. “Usually in Japan you won’t get a horse of his calibre – or even World Ace’s calibre – racing in Australia.

“You could see them easily competing in Dubai [at the World Cup meeting] on Saturday night.”

Instead they’re in Sydney, with one taking on a German winner of Australia’s greatest race.

Williams snaps back “definitely” when asked if Protectionist can win The BMW. He would be able to judge better than anyone else.

“Because we have high expectations, looking at other European horses which have won the Melbourne Cup like Fiorente, we go, ‘oh, he should be doing this and that’,” he said.

“But to be fair, they’re only individuals and Protectionist is Protectionist and the other horse is himself. Fiorente was different again and I would say if we didn’t have so much hype and pressure on him … they would be very happy with runs over unsuitable distances he has never seen in his life before.”

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Posted March 28, 2015 by belesprit09 in Uncategorized

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