Apprentice Chris Williams will not forget the re-opening of Randwick’s Kensington track after booting home his first city winner, Ever So Natural, to close the program on Wednesday.
From Bourke originally, Williams came to Sydney without having ridden a horse and dreaming of being a jockey. About the time he arrived, the Kensington track held its last meeting in 2014.
In his time in racing, Williams has moved around the state to get an opportunity as a jockey, finding a home with Kim Waugh in Wyong over the past month as his riding improved.
“I’d never ridden a horse when I came down here and when they said go and get a head collar on my first day I didn’t know what it was,” Williams said. “I was doing a building apprenticeship and playing footy at home and thought there has go to be something better than this, so instead of having 120kg blokes running at me, I’m on 500kg horses.
“I have been all over the place and spent four years learning. This was so exciting to comeback here because it is where it started for me and this win is against the big boys.”
Williams, who was a runner-up in his first city ride in an apprentice race last week, charged down the centre of the track on Ever So Natural to score from Zafina and Palladium for the 60th win of his career reducing his country claim to 1-1/2kg.
“I knew the big fella was going to be hard to beat after working him the other day. I was pretty excited coming here today because I thought he could win,” Williams said.
The Kensington track was on the firm side but raced well for the first time in more than three years after another rebuild. The honour of being the first winner on this version of the track went to Godolphin’s Gododdin with Glyn Schofield in the saddle.
“The feel and the impression you get while you’re riding over the top of it is you’re definitely getting a lot of confidence from your horse,” Schofield said. “The first time we got on it we were a bit apprehensive as to what we were going to feel. I think both rider and horse have been pretty comfortable going on it.”
Meanwhile, in his long career as steward, Racing Victoria chief Terry Bailey for the first time saw a new way for a horse to be declared a non-runner.
Seattle Park, the fourth placegetter in Wednesday’s Polytrack Handicap, was denied a fair start to the 2100m race after stewards established the horse had his tail caught between the two gates at the back of the barriers.
“We sympathise with the owners but we also have to protect the punters who have backed the horse,” Bailey said.
If Seattle Park had run third to would have had to stay a starter under the rules of racing.