By Ray Hickson
An untimely suspension will delay Chris Williams’ start to the new season but the in-form rider has designs on being an apprentice premiership force in 2019-20.
Williams, who will be 28 this weekend, is one of a strong field of apprentices forming as threats to Robbie Dolan’s standing at the top of the tree.
While Sam Weatherley has returned to New Zealand, the likes of Samantha Clenton, Jenny Duggan and Brock Ryan are gaining momentum and Jean Van Overmeire and Billy Owen will be back in the saddle in the next month. And there’s always a new name or two that emerges.
“It’s going to be a good battle, even with Robbie only having a 1.5kg claim he’s got plenty of winners up his sleeve,’’ Williams said.
“If he can come back in the form he’s been in he will be hard to beat.
“I’ll be working hard to make that apprentice premiership mine but it is all about bettering myself each year.’’
After taking a break from racing in the second half of last year, Williams says the back end of this season has been about consistency, confidence and building support and on that front it’s been a big success.
He posted his first city double at Canterbury last week and but suspension has cost him the first two weeks of the new season.
That includes the chance to reunite with Black Magnum and Knowitall Jack in their next appearances, and a couple of potential rides for the Chris Waller yard this weekend, but he’s getting on the radar of the bigger stables.
That’s not to say ‘the Boss’ Les Bridge doesn’t give him plenty of chances.
“It’s great that the boss supports me heaps, it’s a big advantage that he’s putting me on even when I don’t claim my full 3kg,’’ Williams said.
“I’m pretty happy with how it has all gone. What I’ve focused on this season is getting back into the rhythm of things, getting people on my side and getting connections to build into the new season.
“Weight is still giving me a bit of trouble but coming into the warmer months I can get it down a bit more and give myself the best opportunity to give this season a crack without interruptions.’’
‘The Boss’ hands Williams a prime chance to post his 13th city winner on board Helga in the Farewell David Mills Handicap (1400m), this season's final race meeting, at Warwick Farm on Wednesday.
The mare was an impressive first-up winner at the same track three weeks ago, downing Knowitall Jack amongst others, and with the 3kg claim for Williams she’ll be just 1kg over the limit.
Interestingly, Williams said he wasn’t quite as confident as the punters who backed Helga from $7.50 into $4.60 prior to the jump but in the run felt they were never going to be beaten.
“We knew she was feeling well and fit enough to run the trip but she surprised the boss and me a fair bit because she won quite easily,’’ he said.
“We weren’t really that confident going into the race, she was doing everything right and her trial was fair but we’d had a bit of trouble with her leg, she’d seemed a bit hesitant to stretch out on the Polytrack but was okay on the grass, so weren’t sure how she would go.’’
Helga wins at Warwick Farm on July 10
Helga was scratched from a race at Canterbury last week as Bridge wasn’t keen to run her from a wide gate around the tighter track but Williams sees no issues with an outside gate at Warwick Farm.
He said the mare has improved nicely since her first-up win and any give in the ground, even if it’s just a forgiving good surface, would be to her advantage.
“We’re confident she can run up to what she did last time,’’ he said.
“Ideally it would be nice to get a bit of cover but she is pretty versatile. I should have won on her at Canterbury once last prep, I was trying to ride a bit pretty and got caught in behind them when I was full of running.
“I’ll be looking to keep her out of trouble and give her the best chance to get clear running.’’