Williams calls on his lucky charms in Fortune hunt

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 December, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 December, 2003, 12:00am

International exposure has been the making of Australian jockey Craig Williams and he is looking to his usual secret weapons to help him take that exposure up another notch on Sunday with Cheerful Fortune.

The Andy Leung Ting-wah-trained four-year-old faces a tall order to turn over Hong Kong Sprint favourite Silent Witness, but the Williams family is giving lightning every chance to strike where it has hit before.

'My dad and my brother Damien will be here and somehow I always seem to ride winners when my family turns up. Dad has been there on my biggest days,' Williams said yesterday. 'When I was in England, he flew in and I rode my Group One on Tobougg. In May this year, he came for a visit and I rode four at Sha Tin.

'It's amazing how often it happens. If I could win an international - well, I think that would be bigger than either. I've never had a ride in them before, and to have one with a chance is a special thrill.'

So the visit of his father, Alan, a Group One winner in the saddle and as a trainer, is a morale lifter for the 26-year-old, who takes Cheerful Fortune around in a barrier trial this morning to wrap up his Sprint preparation.

'Tobougg is the best horse I've ridden, but I have a huge opinion of Cheerful Fortune. Actually, I thought there wouldn't be many he couldn't beat until Silent Witness beat him,' Williams said.

'I know Andy doesn't say a lot to the press, so they don't tend to write about him, but this has been a great piece of training to get him to here so quickly. Cheerful Fortune still has so much potential - he's a machine.

'The 1,000 metres is not his ideal trip but it still took Silent Witness to beat him last start. We have to improve, but I'm hoping we get some cover this time and we'll see if we can close that gap.'

Williams has ridden three Group Ones - in England, France and Australia - but his trophy cupboard would have been fuller had he not made the decision to go overseas at 21 - a decision which paradoxically made his career.

'There is something about going to a strange environment and doing well. It was the making of me as a rider and I reckon I grew up a lot as a person, too,' he reflected. 'And doing well in England probably helped me get a licence here.'

Williams may love his home town of Melbourne but is realistic about the benefits of having left it behind.

'Overseas you get experiences you can't get in Australia. In Europe, you are exposed to many different ideas with training and riding,' he said. 'Then you come here and it's mentally and physically tougher again.

' Physically, because though you only ride two meetings a week, you ride much more work than at home, and every race is important. A Class Five might be the only chance all year for that horse, so it's important.

'Mentally, Hong Kong is hard because you ride so few winners. Steven King told me when I first came here that if I had a winner a fortnight, I was going well. That's not an easy concept coming from places where it's normal to ride 100 winners a year, and it makes it harder to maintain your work rate, your form and focus, especially when things just aren't happening. It unsettles a lot of top riders.'

Williams would dearly love to expand his horizons further with a stint in the United States, but for now he can only hope that an upset on Cheerful Fortune might bring that and the rest of his wishlist closer to fruition.