Venetia Williams was born in Cornwall and moved to Herefordshire with her father and step-mother on leaving school.
She now lives and trains at Aramstone, between King's Caple and Hoarwithy. It’s her grandmother's family home, and a place that she clearly loves. Overlooking the River Wye, surrounded by villages and agricultural land it is a wonderfully picturesque part of the country, yet only a short drive from the M50, crucial for travel on race-days.
In past interviews Venetia has spoken specifically of the importance of the stables proximity to major road networks: “It's good for the horses to be able to get on the motorway easily because it makes for a good easy ride in the horsebox, without being tossed and turned around lots of corners.”
The granddaughter of Percival Williams a well-known breeder of horses, Venetia understandably got the bug for riding at a young age. Her late mother, Pat Rose, was a talented show jumper and Venetia herself became an accomplished amateur jockey, achieving success between 1986 and 1988. She rode in the Grand National though that race ended in a fall at Becher’s and just weeks later another fall at Worcester was to end her career as a jockey.
Leading and looking odds-on a winner she has spoken of that life-changing race: “The next thing I knew I was rolling over and coming to rest with my face down in the grass. I thought to myself I can’t feel anything, I can’t move. After ten minutes from my neck down I had violent pins and needles. I had broken the ‘hangman’s bone’ as it’s called but fortunately it was not displaced.” Williams could quite easily have been paralysed for life or even worse. Thankfully she recovered and turned to training horses rather than riding them.
She first spent time learning the ropes from the likes of Barry Hills and Martin Pipe, and took out her trainer’s licence in 1995, setting up stables on the family estate. Williams is a big fan of keeping her horses out of their boxes for as long as possible. With the fields around the stables divided into small paddocks, many of her horses are paired with a paddock buddy, with whom they’ll spend most of their time. Happy and contented horses make for successful horses.
One of her most successful was Teeton Mill who became the first stable-star. The wonderful grey won the Hennessy Gold Cup and the King George in devastating fashion in 1998. Sadly several jumping errors in that season’s Gold Cup resulted in a serious tendon injury which ended his brief career.
Lady Rebecca was another hero of the yard in those early years. The pint-sized hurdler won 13 of her 19 starts under rules, but it was her love for Cheltenham that made her a star. She won the Grade1 Cleeve Hurdle three years in a row. Purchased by bloodstock agent David Redvers for just 400 guineas, she amassed over £160,000 in career earnings.
In 2009 Venetia had her greatest day as a trainer when successful in the Grand National thanks to her tenacious stayer Mon Mome. A massive 100/1 outsider he stormed home from the last to win by 12-lengths. After the race a stunned trainer stated: “How can you ever expect that in a race like this? It was just unbelievable. I'm so proud of the horse and of Liam for giving him such a good ride, and the girl who looks after him as well. I'm so proud of everyone in the yard - I never get chance to praise them and give them the credit they deserve, it is all a team effort."
And this season Venetia was at it again, this time winning the Welsh Grand National with Emperor’s Choice. Another resolute performer, he looked beaten heading for the last, but galvanised by jockey Aidan Coleman surged for the line to get home by the shortest of margins.
Renowned for her successes when the ground is testing, this can be a rather misleading conception. She is a trainer to follow at all the major meetings under all prevailing conditions. The Cheltenham Festival has gleaned a number of terrific victories including Carrickboy in 2013 in the Byrne Group Plate at 50/1.
With horses of the quality of Baradari and Aso, recent winners at Ascot and Haydock, along with Houblon Des Obeaux and Tango De Juilley, there’s every chance that the Herefordshire trainer could strike gold again in March, and at a rather attractive price.