Venetia Williams went into Sunday with her string of horses in good early season form. And things got even better on the day when Ballyoliver won at odds of 14/1 and her Otago Trail also triumphed. Both horses were returning to action after an absence of around 200 days.
She’s a class act is Venetia. She positively oozes class. See her on a racecourse and you would likely think she’s never mucked out a stable or had dirt under her fingernails. You’d be wrong.
Venetia is much more than a clothes horse who, by her own admission, drives her Aston Martin in the fast lane.
In her career as a jockey she knew what it was to be knocked unconscious. She experienced falling from her horse in a Grand National. She broke her neck and spent two months in traction – a day she describes as “the luckiest of my life.”
Having been a pupil assistant under the guidance of trainer John Edwards, she took out her own training licence in 1995. It’s worth remembering that lady trainers were still few in number back then and she’s had to prove herself in what remains a male dominated world.
There was a period of time when she could have been training horses to race on the flat. But it was never her first choice.
Venetia Williams told Julian Muscat: “Jump racing is more fun. It’s probably wrong to generalise but so much about Flat racing is maximising the exit value when you come to sell a horse. It is not so much about the enjoyment of the horse. When you have a horse for eight seasons, as I do, it is not all about today.
“It is important my owners enjoy the whole experience, the challenges we face in trying to maximise that horse’s career. So much of it is about peaks and troughs, and realising a peak is not far away. Just because a horse’s form tapers off doesn’t mean it is no good.”
It has taken time for Williams to attract wealthy owners. Even after her Mon Mome had won the Grand National, no queue formed along her drive. No potential owners were bashing down her door asking her to train their purchases. Of that period of time she says: “It was the year of the credit crunch, so it wasn’t particiularly clever of me to win the National in 2009. A year later one or two owners did join me; they assumed I’d be inundated with new horses and decided to wait twelve months.
She’s now in her 20th season as a trainer and has the respect of owners, fellow trainers and punters alike. When Venetia Williams sends out a horse, you know she is racing to win.
In the first 24 hours of November the owners of The Clock Leary, Otago Trail and Ballyoliver were counting their winnings and their blessings. They have their horses with one of the most talented, determined, humble, charming and – in every sense of the word – smart trainers in the game.
You are unlikely to see her jumping up and down as one of her horses comes home first. But that smile is unmistakeable. It lights up the winners’ enclosure.
She says: “This is a very exciting time. We are all only here once and despite the stress I still enjoy it tremendously. If you don’t enjoy it when times are good you’re a sad old soul.”
Not something I could ever imagine Venetia Williams being. I make no apology for being lost in admiration for the lady.