Rider switches to training challenge with Brierly Steeplechase runner

Trainer Bill Williams is putting the polish on Berlioz for a shot at the Brierly Steeplechase tomorrow.

Trainer Bill Williams is putting the polish on Berlioz for a shot at the Brierly Steeplechase tomorrow.

BILL Williams never won the 3YB Scotty Stewart Brierly Steeplechase during an injury-ravaged yet successful riding career. But tomorrow he is aiming to win it as a trainer at his first attempt.

The 38-year-old can’t remember how many times he was close; the near-misses blur into one disappointment.

But all that could be forgotten if his runner Berlioz can triumph in the $100,000 event — the feature on the opening day of Warrnambool’s famous TAB May Racing Carnival.

Williams, who retired from riding because of injury in 2012, knows it won’t be easy.

“The Brierly is just one of those races,” he said.

“It’s not the best race on the calendar but winning any race at Warrnambool is a great race to win.

“The crowd here is just so passionate.

“It doesn’t matter what race you win, it could be a maiden, they are all special here.”

Williams, who had more than a year out of the sport after he suffered his second serious broken wrist in 2012, turned to training from the property he and wife Sally run at Woodside, about 10 minutes from Oakbank in the Adelaide hills.

One of his biggest triumphs as a jockey came in the 2009 Grand Annual Steeplechase when he lifted the Robbie Laing-trained Sir Pentire to a famous victory. 

He choked back tears at the presentations because the win came after he endured three operations, 400 hours of physiotherapy and seven months out of the saddle. 

He broke five bones and dislocated four others in his right hand and wrist in a fall from Poker Face at the final fence of the 2008 Grand Annual.

When he broke his left wrist in a fall before the 2012 season, Williams decided to call time on his career.

“It was really tedious,” he said of committing to rehabilitation.

“I was hoping to get back for one last season. But I took 12 months off from racing altogether and worked on things at the farm and other bits and pieces.”

He is comfortable being out of the saddle now.

“I’m happy doing what I am doing,” he said.

“Every riding career has an end date. You don’t want to be going out when you’re not up to it. I didn’t go out on a high but I went out when I was still riding well.”

Williams’ wife Sally and her family have an interest in Berlioz, which was trained by Warrnambool’s Bill and Symon Wilde last season, including a third placing in the Brierly. But with Williams becoming a trainer, the eight-year-old is now under his care.

He schooled over a couple of fences at Warrnambool yesterday and will attempt  to win the Brierly first-up over jumps this campaign. He has had two trial victories and was eighth at Oakbank on the flat in the Onkaparinga Cup last weekend.

“The horse is in pretty good form. He’s happy and he’s healthy,” Williams said.

“A race like the Brierly, anyone who goes in there confident they will win it, they have rocks in their head. Realistically, I would be happy if he ran top-three and that would be good going forward for the rest of the season.

“If he races like he’s trialled, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s in the finish.”

Berlioz was one of four Brierly runners who schooled at the course yesterday. Winslow’s Ciaron Maher gave Von Doussa Steeplechase winner Palmero a look at the Tozer Road for the first time, while Via Savoia from the Darren Weir stable and Warrnambool trainer Simon Ryan’s Universal Sound, also jumped well.


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