Nick Williams has been a National Hunt trainer since 1998. His stables are based at Culverhill Farm in the village of George Nympton in Devon. With around 30 horses in training, his yard is set in 100 acres of rolling countryside.
Over recent years Williams has embarked on something of a dual campaign. Last season he sent in the region of 40 runners to France with a considerable amount of success. Indeed he accumulated over 300,000 euros in prize money.
His trips to France also enable him to purchase well-bred yearlings, a policy that is proving extremely successful. The horses are broken-in before being trained as two year old's, and then let loose on the racecourse at three or four. This system ensures that Williams has total control over the development of his horses.
That the trainer has had such success has come as a surprise to him. He was quoted as saying, “I’m a London boy, with absolutely no racing background. I was brought up in St John’s Wood and my only connection was getting the bus to Cheltenham from school, and walking up to the racecourse before finding someone to take me in with them.”
But his love of poring over pedigrees before purchasing the right type, along with the equine knowledge of wife Jane has ensured that the team’s fortunes continue in an upward curve. Indeed much of the training is down to Mrs Williams, along with individual programmes aimed at getting the very best out of each horse.
With accountancy backgrounds the business should be thriving. The sale of Pistolet Noir a few years back enabled new stables to be built. Without the financial clout of a Ricci or a Wylie, an eye for a bargain at the sales is crucial, in the hope of obtaining a potential Long Run or Kauto Star.
During the Christmas period of 2009, hopes were indeed high that just such a horse had arrived at the stable. Me Voici won the Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow by ten lengths and was built and bred to take high order over fences. A big money offer came in for the horse, but on this occasion the possibility of having a future star in the yard proved too tempting. Sadly the team never discovered just how good a horse he was, as he tragically died as a four-year-old.
There have been stable stars over the years and last season promised much for future campaigns. Diamond Harry won the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle as a novice hurdler before going on to win the Hennessy Gold Cup in 2010. Reve De Sivola chased home Peddlers Cross in the Neptune at Cheltenham also in 2010, and has gone on to become a multiple Grade 1 winner in England and in France.
Nick produced his fourth Grade 1 winner when Le Rocher again won him the Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow last winter. The horse is held in the highest regard and is yet another that should make into a terrific chaser. But there are other promising youngsters in the yard. Fox Norton won Grade 2 hurdle races at Cheltenham and Doncaster, before a terrific performance at the Punchestown Festival. As recently as last Sunday another young hurdler, Tea For Two, was impressing at Kempton.
There’s little doubt that this husband and wife team have a winning formula. Discipline plays a crucial role in their success. Nick appears adamant that the size of the stable will remain the same. His expertise in the purchasing of quality stock, along with Jane’s dedication in treating each thoroughbred as an individual, continues to produce results.
They have yet to achieve Cheltenham Festival glory and this is clearly a burning ambition. Indeed their system of bringing French bred horses to the yard, often horses that appreciate softer ground, is in direct contrast to conditions often encountered at The Festival. But as the latest winter campaign begins, hopes will be high. They certainly look to have the ammunition to give it an almighty go.