Backpacker Williams turns punters' hero

Australian rider who broke into the British big time will be back in 2001

When he arrived in Britain this spring, not many people gave Craig Williams a chance. For a start, the Australian jockey had only come to these shores because his heart was booming out of his shirt and he was reuniting with a girlfriend he had met in his homeland.

When he arrived in Britain this spring, not many people gave Craig Williams a chance. For a start, the Australian jockey had only come to these shores because his heart was booming out of his shirt and he was reuniting with a girlfriend he had met in his homeland.

And then he did not really look the part. His 23-year-old face is dominated by freckles and proper teeth, the sort of visage that normally gets you on the front of Mad magazine.

Yet Williams has swiftly proved that he is no dunce. Of all the backpackers who have arrived in Britain this season, he has made the most serious impact. And we have had some big names. There have been Williams' more celebrated countrymen in Damien Oliver and Greg Hall, as well as the South African Basil Marcus, the multiple champion of Hong Kong.

Craig Williams may not, as yet, be anywhere near the station of the great Aussies that have been to these provinces before, the likes of Scobie Breasley, Ron Hutchinson and Bill Williamson. But the angels seem to like him. His friend Vaughan Summers, who plays golf on the European circuit, introduced him to Mick Channon at the beginning of what was to be Old Windmill's greatest season with a training licence.

That is not to say the early days at West Ilsley were easy. "I was working really hard and trying hard but I just couldn't even get a ride, never mind a winner," the jockey said yesterday. "I was frustrated. I had just ridden a Group One winner in Australia and I felt that if I was given a chance I could do something. I was living out of my bags because I thought I would be going home any moment.

"It wasn't great at the time, but I do think it has made me mentally harder and tougher. That first six weeks meant I appreciate what's happening now.

"Mick told me to grin and bear it and I would get the chance eventually. He inspired me. It wasn't what he actually said, but the way he said it. Then we had the other sort of heart-to-hearts. I think you call them bollockings over here. But he's been great for me.

"I'm always thanking him, even when we are in the car going to races. But he tells me that if I couldn't do the job he wouldn't have me. Without him, I wouldn't be where I am."

You need the breaks in racing, and, in this instance, Williams got his from another jockey's - when Steve Drowne fractured his leg at Folkestone. That injury in early-season meant that the West Ilsley stable was down to just one senior jockey. And it was just as the horses were coming to the boil.

Hunting Lion went on to win the Coral Eurobet Sprint Handicap at Newmarket in early June at 50-1, a price which shines. Two weeks later Cotton House won at 25-1 in the William Hill Trophy Handicap at York and it was not only the odds which appeared to be glowing.

They may have been events which were designed to spread the good word for bookmakers, but, in reality, it was a single jockey who was the principal beneficiary.

"I started to get more rides from Mick, and it was at a time when even the slowest horses in the yard seemed to be winning," Williams says. "I got on them thinking they had no chance, but they all seemed to win. Suddenly I had the whole 130 rides. It was bloody great. It just showed how things can turn around."

There have been the handicap victories and then the successes at the highest level with Tobougg, in the Prix de la Salamandre and Dewhurst Stakes. The horse, however, is now just a reminiscence for Williams after his secondment to the Godolphin battalions yesterday.

Still, Williams will not change. The style is pure aerodynamics. He is literally draped around a horse's body. It is the sort of slumped posture the cowboy scout used to be in when the Indians sent him back from their camp.

Williams is also considered to be sparing with the whip back home, but then so would a lion tamer. The gunfire is reserved for his post-race observations. When it comes to the after-sales service - the conversation with owners, trainers and press - Williams is not found wanting.

The whole package seems to be working. Digital's win at Nottingham yesterday was his 42nd of the campaign, his 40th for Channon. A £1 bet on each of his rides would see you more than £40 ahead.

Tonight, the Aussie will dine with Channon and discuss his return visit next season. He flies back home on Sunday evening, the day after another potential big winner via Cd Europe in Doncaster's Racing Post Trophy.

The rider will not need the headset and screen on the return to the Antipodes because he has glorious images already flickering through his head. "I've got to see and participate in what I've always dreamed about, stuff that's only been on the television for me, in newspapers and magazines," Craig Williams says. "And then I get to be part of it. It's been fantastic."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A luxury beauty house with a nu...

Recruitment Genius: Housekeepers - Immediate Start

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This company are currently recruiting new exp...

Recruitment Genius: Head Concierge

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

Recruitment Genius: Content, SEO and PPC Executive

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral