Williams suffers rollercoaster day

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 March, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 March, 2004, 12:00am

Australian rider Craig Williams has had better days, but at least he landed a winner in the final race at Sha Tin yesterday to put a silver lining on the meeting.

Williams lost the feature event on Freebird in the stewards' room and was later slapped with a four-meeting ban for the ride, which will cost him the mount on The Duke in next Sunday's Macau-Hong Kong Trophy in Macau.

While Freebird had been erratic throughout the race, the stewards felt Williams had not fulfilled his obligation to stop riding the horse over the final stages of the 1,800-metre Victoria Racing Club Trophy and return him to a straight course.

But the jockey managed to pick up some spending money for his holiday when he and Caspar Fownes plotted the downfall of warm favourites First Among Equals and Saint Thomas in the final race with Bold Winner.

'Gee, that would have been one more blow if they hadn't put my number up,' said Williams after his bob-of-the-head victory over First Among Equals.

Bold Winner had been an upset victor at his second run when able to get a cheap lead over 1,400 metres in January, and he was able to control the pace again in front yesterday over the mile.

'We always had the plan to go forward in a race that didn't seem to have much speed,' said trainer Fownes.

'But we actually thought John Size's horse, Happy Partners, would lead and we were happy to go up outside him. I left it to Craig to judge once the race started to pan out and obviously something happened to Happy Partners at the jump and my horse was able to cross over to the fence.'

From there Williams was able to steady Bold Winner and turn the race into a sprint home, his mount becoming the fifth winner to lead throughout in the day's seven turf races.

'Bold Winner's been very honest. I thought he might have been unlucky in the race where he was fourth at Happy Valley but other than that he has held his form from the first win rather than improved on it,' said Fownes.

'He should have finished closer a couple of times and has kept racing well.'

The trainer-jockey combination had been scheduled to reunite for the Macau-Hong Kong Trophy next Sunday but Fownes will have to find himself another rider for The Duke.

Williams' suspension will commence after the final event at Sha Tin next Saturday and, under the wording of the rules, the stewards did not have leeway to vary the penalty.

'The rule says that the suspension must commence at the conclusion of the meeting following the one at which the jockey is suspended,' said chief steward Jamie Stier.