Racing: Williams grows tall in Walsh's shadow

As deputy to Ruby Walsh, this season Christian Williams has ridden the leading novice hurdlers in Britain at every distance: Noland, over two miles; Denman, over two and a half; and Neptune Collonges, over three. Tomorrow he rides the latter again at Haydock, as well as Eurotrek, one of the most progressive staying chasers in the land. In the circumstance, Walsh might be well advised to refuse a cup of tea from Williams without making him taste it first.

"But I don't like it when Ruby's off injured," Williams insisted yesterday. "I can't watch him ride then. I know I need to improve in so many ways, and I am always watching Ruby - the way he sits so quiet on a horse, the way he can use the stick in both hands. He's very good to me, I know I can ring him whenever I want."

There is, demonstrably, little danger of the young Welshman getting ideas above his station. In fairness, this is a rapidly diminishing zone: only five jockeys - McCoy, Johnson, Lee, Dobbin and Murphy - have ridden more than the 66 winners he has partnered in his first season since losing his claim. Last year, he rode 59 to finish second in the conditional jockeys' championship, and was also runner-up in the Grand National on Royal Auclair.

Still only 22, he is infected with none of the swagger of Gavin Henson, who attended the same Bridgend school where Williams was himself once devoted to rugby. Two of his uncles won caps in the Welsh pack - Gareth, indeed, made the back row for the Lions - and Williams had little intention of compressing the family prowess into the spare frame of a jump jockey.

"Racing was a religion for the Irish lads, growing up, but for us it was rugby," he said. "But it's the same in any sport: dedication and graft are the keys to success. When you are brought up on a farm, you are brought up to work. Half the people from towns, they're afraid of graft."

His determination to keep his feet on the ground is measured by the length of his leathers and brevity of his evenings. He is unabashed about both. Certainly it is difficult to imagine Henson saying this: "I live by myself and don't do much socialising. I go to bed about nine most evenings, and just go home to my family if I can at weekends. I know I have to keep improving or there'll be no job with Paul Nicholls - the yard is going to another level now, and it is up to you to keep matching the standards."

His father trained point-to-pointers and Williams rode 75 winners as a teenager, a traditional grounding that brought him to the notice of Nicholls. "That experience over fences proved valuable when I went there, because so many of his horses are chasers in the making," Williams said. "He carried on using me when I lost my claim, which was a great help because so many riders get lost at that stage. It's been brilliant riding horses like Denman. Even the first day I rode him, when he only won a head, I told Paul that he was probably the best horse I'd ever sat on. And if he does give you a bollocking, you know to take it on the chin - it will all be forgotten the next day."

Nicholls is urging Walsh not to return with undue haste. "Ruby could come back next week, but might be better off waiting a few more days - that would still leave plenty of time before Cheltenham," he said. "As everyone has seen, we have no problem putting Christian on some of the best horses in the yard. His attitude gets more mature all the time. He just needs to learn to put his stick down in a finish sometimes, but he'll do that as he gets his strength. That comes with age, and he is already a lot stronger and tighter."

Nicholls is £500,000 clear in the trainers' championship and Martin Pipe needs to find hidden reserves at Cheltenham and Aintree to have even a slender hope of retaining his title. He did come up with some fresh ammunition, however, when Commercial Flyer made a flamboyant debut over fences here yesterday.

Last spring he was one of the busiest and most controversial contributors to Pipe's frantic defence, winning a race at Perth before being rushed down to Sandown for the final card of the season. He had not been seen since but made short work of these easy fences and easier opposition, earning a quote of 12-1 from William Hill for the Royal & SunAlliance Chase. "Like so many of our horses, he's been wrong, and we've just had to wait for them to come right," Pipe said.

Chris McGrath

Nap: Euro American

(Market Rasen 4.00)

NB: Outer Hebrides

(Wolverhampton 4.40)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
From Mean Girls to Mamet: Lindsay Lohan
theatre
Sport
Nathaniel Clyne (No 2) drives home his side's second goal past Arsenal’s David Ospina at the Emirates
footballArsenal 1 Southampton 2: Arsène Wenger pays the price for picking reserve side in Capital One Cup
News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
i100
Travel
travelGallery And yes, it is indoors
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
The Tiger Who Came To Tea
booksJudith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world