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Venetia Williams talks stable form, the staff crisis and horses to follow in exclusive interview


Venetia Williams is in the form of her life.

With nearly 40 percent of her string having either won or been placed so far this campaign, it seems there’s little the Herefordshire-based trainer can do wrong.

Venetia Williams is having a season to remember
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Venetia Williams is having a season to remember[/caption]

She’s already bearing down on last season’s prize-money total – with three months still left to go.

Stable stars Houblon Des Obeaux and Yala Enki have contributed significantly to her excellent haul, but, as she tells me leaning on the aga in her kitchen, there’s one horse who’s really stood out.

“Aso has been fantastic. At the moment it’s all systems go for the Ryanair and you’d hope he can be competitive. He ran well in the race in 2017 behind Un De Sceaux so there’s no reason why he can’t produce a similar display.”

An impressive winner of his most recent Cheltenham outing where he gave lumps of weight to Happy Diva, the progressive nine-year-old is likely to have one more run before his eagerly-awaited Festival date.


She added: “He’ll probably go to Ascot for the Grade 1 Betfair Ascot Chase.

“Hopefully he’ll get a bit of rain as although he doesn’t need soft ground, he sustained a tendon injury last year so we’d need to be a bit careful running him on quicker going.

“Charlie gets on very well with him and the pair have been flying this season.”

Charlie Deutsch and Aso have developed a fruitful partnership
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Venetia’s stable jockey, Charlie Deutsch, has returned from a stint in prison with more oomph than ever before.

The talented 22-year-old had his life turned upside-down when he was convicted of driving over the drink-drive limit and escaping police custody back in March last year.

Sentenced to ten months, he was released on licence after serving just under three.

Many expected Williams to have pencilled in a new number one, but as soon as he was back she returned him to top spot.

She said: “People made a big deal of my sticking by him, but I don’t see it that way.

“He’s the jockey I want on my horses – it’s as much for my benefit as it is for his. We’ve all done stupid things and unfortunately his was just a little bit more high-profile.

“I think people underestimate just how good a rider he actually is. I hardly ever give him instructions.

Charlie Deutsch has been flying since his return
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“He’s so good from the front and it makes sense that he often goes there – you haven’t got horses intimidating you, you can get into a rhythm and you have a nice view of the fences.

“If you want an example, have a look at Uhlan Bute at Plumpton recently. He was very good.”

It’s not just Charlie who’s been making waves. Conditional Hugh Nugent and amateur Lucy Turner have also been firing in the winners.

Williams added: “Both of them have improved. It’s great to have all of our jockeys riding so well. We have a great team and everyone works hard.”

The accomplished trainer certainly doesn’t seem to be struggling in terms of staff – though that’s hardly surprising.


WINNING PERCE Presenting Percy back to his best in gritty Galmoy win


With a welcoming atmosphere at the yard as soon as you arrive, you’re immediately made to feel at home.

She said: “People make a big deal of the so-called staff crisis but it’s the same with anything, not just racing.

“I thought Evan Williams spoke up well on the matter recently as these things all need to be put into perspective.

“At the moment we’ve got around 80 horses which requires the work of roughly 25 people. A lot of the staff have been with me for a long time, and we’re in the fortunate position that we have people ringing up to apply for jobs.

Aso is a demon on the racecourse but a sweetheart in the stable

“I know that we’re lucky in that regard. We’ve just had a new lad join us from the racing school. It’s a great initiative and we’ve had plenty of other people from there.”

Success at a high level is another factor attracting new faces to the yard.

Alongside Aso, Williams reckons top notch novice Yalltari is another that could be headed for Grade 1 company.

The chaser was a classy winner of a handicap at Chepstow on his penultimate start, earning him a mark of 147 – but was an unlucky faller at Exeter earlier in the week.

She said: “The fall was so unfortunate. The start on the chase course there is pretty horrible as they have a short run to the first fence and there’s not much room.

“The horse on his left ran around going into it and bumped ours in mid-air, giving poor Yalltari no chance.

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“He’s a very good jumper usually and I just hope it doesn’t affect his confidence. He’s rated 147 which is high for having won one chase.

“He’ll have an entry in the Grade 1 novice races at the Festival as he has every right to be there. I bred him too, so any success he has is extra special!”

Yalltari may be up there with the classiest horses in the yard, but there’s no doubting the most popular.

A twelve-year-old who’s lost none of his spark, Houblon Des Obeaux was a rejuvenated winner of a veterans’ prize at Sandown when last seen.

Houblon Des Obeaux has looked as good as ever recently
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Clearly back his best, he looks set for more of the same in the coming months.

Williams said: “He won very nicely at Sandown. I think he could well run in the Masters Handicap Chase back at the same track before possibly taking in another veterans’ race at Exeter. He loves Sandown so that’s the plan at the moment.”

Arguably the biggest day of Williams’ training career came when she sent 100-1 shot Mon Mome to Grand National victory nearly ten years ago.

It was a huge payday for both Williams and owner Vida Bingham, whose famous green silks were again carried to victory recently by the potentially smart Achille.

Mon Mome (right) goes on to win the 2009 Grand National
Reuters

Although not as classy as Mon Mome, he looks a horse to follow after bolting up at Exeter recently.

“Vida’s been very patient with him. Cheekpieces have made a big difference to him and he’s now not worried about what everyone else is doing. He won well at Exeter last time.”

One that could line up in this year’s Grand National is smart stayer Yala Enki.

Winner of the trial for the big race last year, he then went on to bypass the main event, though Williams is hoping he’ll take his chance this time around.

“He’s quite a small horse but the fences shouldn’t be too much of an issue for him as he’s a good jumper,” she said.

Yala Enki (right) was a smart operator over hurdles but has looked even better since switched to fences
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“It’s just a question of whether the owners want to go as they didn’t let him run in the race last year.

“All being well he’ll go back to the Grand National Trial at Haydock that he won last year and we’ll go from there.

“However, nothing will happen unless we get some rain. It’s seriously curtailing the season.”

Both Bingham and owners Hills of Ledbury have been big supporters of Williams in the past, but she admits it’s become increasingly tricky to lure new owners to her Herefordshire base.

“It’s been more difficult in the past few years, though I don’t think that’s anything to do with Brexit or the economic climate.


“There’s more mobility in the world these days, and I’m not just talking about cars on the road.

There have been a few young trainers starting out who are very successful.”

However, there’s no questioning Williams’ ability. She remains at the top of her game, and her stats are there for all to see.

“Our form recently has been great. It’s a little frustrating when people say I’m only on a hot streak because there’s heavy ground.

“I don’t run my horses in the summer so of course the ground is going to have a bit of juice in it. With any luck, our good run will continue.”

Whatever the weather does in the next few months, you can be certain she’ll carry on working as hard as ever.

Aso, at the very least, should make sure of that.

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