Victories for Tea For Two and Aubusson have sparked life into a hitherto lacklustre campaign for Nick Williams.
The Devon handler has now crept to six winners from 51 starts at a strike rate of 10%. Last season gleaned just 13 wins from 113 runs compared to the previous five winters which saw the Williams yard hit virtually twice that figure on each occasion. In the 2009/10 campaign total prize money touched half a million, whilst last year it dropped below £300,000 and so far this winter sits at less than £80,000.
Added to this, during the summer the stable lost one of its exciting youngsters, when Fox Norton moved to Neil Mulholland’s yard. To rub salt into the wounds, the five-year-old has taken to fences, like a duck to water and is already two from three over the larger obstacles.
It sounds like an almighty tale of woe, but to be fair to Williams and his team, fortunes can quickly turn in his favour. The yard only has around 25 horses in training, a manageable quantity for Culverhill Farm. It therefore follows that should the trainer nurture a star or two, the slightly disappointing stats can very quickly look a whole lot healthier.
Reve De Sivola has certainly been one such star over the past half dozen years. He may be fast approaching ‘senior citizen’ status, but on the evidence of his run at Auteuil last month, he looks to retain plenty of ability. In just over a week’s time he makes his regular pilgrimage to Ascot to contest the Long Walk Hurdle. It’s a race that he has dominated in recent years, with three consecutive victories. There’s every chance that he can make it four on the bounce, especially if the ground rides testing.
Last Friday at Exeter Tea For Two made his much anticipated switch to fences. A classy hurdler, he always looked to have the stature that suggested chasing would be more his game. Nevertheless, few could have anticipated such a stunning debut. He travelled through the race with ease and was wonderfully slick over his obstacles. He recorded a thumping 10 length success despite being eased right down in the latter stages. Paul Nicholls’ Calipto was back in third and the Philip Hobbs trained Golden Doyen out of sight in fourth. It was a truly cracking performance.
Though Aubusson’s win at Uttoxeter yesterday was somewhat less impressive, it was still a dominant performance. He’s another huge beast who appears to need testing conditions to be at his best. In time you could certainly see him becoming a Welsh National type. However, I’d be surprised if he progresses as quickly as Tea For Two, and he looks more of a long term project.
On Saturday the yard also celebrated a stunning win for the four-year-old novice hurdler Agrapart. The son of Martaline is yet another who coped best with testing ground conditions. He trounced the opposition by 20 lengths with Lizzie Kelly on board barely moving a muscle. Heavy ground form can be misleading at times, but he undoubtedly looks a tasty prospect.
It’s fair to say that Williams and his team are stirring from their recent slumber. The outlook for the Devon handler suddenly looks a whole lot brighter.