Ian Williams is one of top trainers of Flat and jumps horses in Britain with successes at the Cheltenham Festival and at Group level in recent seasons.
The likes of Wayward Prince, Magic Circle, Sir Maximilian, Ballyalton and London Prize have captured major prizes for the trainer, who is approaching 2019 with excitement and optimism.
We spoke to Williams about his weekend runners and got the latest of some of his big names.
You are one of the country’s leading dual-purpose trainers. What is it about training jumpers and Flat horses that you enjoy so much?
It keeps me busy and it keeps me out of trouble!
The fact we can keep ourselves busy during the winter with good jumpers and some all-weather horse and the opposite in the summer is great for the yard and keep things interesting.
I’m not the greatest fan of summer jumping or the winter all-weather so I like to be able to change tact through the year.
Do you think going over jumps can help horses from the Flat?
I certainly think some Flat horses really do benefit from being able to go over hurdles.
It helps improve their physique and their breathing during the races so they settle better.
Generally it helps strengthen them up and helps them.
The weather continues to remain relatively dry. Has that caused you any problems?
What’s ideal for some isn’t for others and we’re fortunate to be in a position where we have a number of horses from the Flat who benefit from the dry ground and have been able to do well with it.
On the flip side, some of the more old fashioned jumpers we have in the yard are stuck because we haven’t got the right ground to run them on, which is frustrating for them.
First Assignment is back in action in the Pertemps qualifier at Warwick. How are things with him?
He’s in great form. His run at Haydock last time was a solid performance and was going back into the fold after a tough race at Cheltenham just a few days before.
He’s off a higher mark now than he was then but the form has worked out well.
It would be nice to get him qualified for the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham and if he won or went close to that then there might be better things come under consideration.
He’s got a lot of options open for him.
You run Jumpsuit and Pour Joie in the bumper at Warwick. What do you expect from them?
Our horses always benefit from that first experience at the racecourse.
It’s a newcomers race and none of them have run before, not even in point-to-points, so they’re all in the same boat really.
We’re never too tough with our bumper horses so if they show anything particularly good in a bumper than bodes well for their futures.
Poker School and Speed Company are in action at Kempton. How do you rate your prospects?
I like our runners down at Kempton as I think they’ll like the decent ground.
Poker School and Speed Company should go well around there and they are competitive races, albeit perhaps not as deep in the midst of a proper winter when the ground might be a little slower.
Speedo Boy enjoyed at excellent 2018. What are the plans for him?
He’s in Dubai now. He’s run in the Cesarewitch, had a go over hurdles and is now out there.
He runs next Thursday over a trip that’s probably not going to be perfect but it’s a place to start and we’ll go from there.
The thing to do is not to pigeonhole horses into one thing or the other.
If they’re capable of doing more than one thing then you might as well take their opportunities where they lie.
Magic Circle was a star for you last season too. Do all roads lead back to the Melbourne Cup in November?
He starts the season in a different position this year compared to last year in terms of his handicap mark.
He’ll be prepared for a run at Chester, probably in the Ormonde Stakes, and then go from there.
It would certainly be nice if he could take in some of the Cup races on the way.
Oi The Clubb Oi’s produced a good performance behind Quel Destin last time. Where are we likely to see him next?
Oi The Clubb Oi’s is improving all the time and he’s taking a little break at the moment as he will be back on the Flat in the summer.
He’s quite likely to turn up in the Fred Winter at the Cheltenham Festival and at this stage I wouldn’t be mad keen to win a hurdle race with him unless it was a decent one.
He’ll improve again next year, I’m sure.
And, finally, how are things with Seven De Baune after his below-par run at Doncaster?
Seven De Baune was particularly disappointing at Doncaster and I suspect he didn’t enjoy the ground that day.
He wasn’t at his best. He could end up running in something like the EBF Final at Sandown the weekend before Cheltenham.