Flemington in the first week of November. There’s no greater certainty than Lloyd Williams having a fancied runner – or several – in this country’s greatest race, the Melbourne Cup.
Royal Ascot in June has seen the country’s most famous owner taste success on the international stage, with his part-owned Order of St George dominating in the Ascot Gold Cup as recently as last year.
But could the Mount Macedon-based Williams be donning the top hat and tails for a spot in the winners’ enclosure at Epsom after the most famous race in the world – The Derby – in just a few months?
It’s not beyond the realms of possibility after his blueblooded colt Rekindling sprung a 16-1 shock in Ireland last weekend when he made his seasonal reappearance in a Group 3 Derby trial over 2000 metres, the Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown.
Williams is no stranger to Irish racecourses as he has owned a number of gallopers in partnership with the Coolmore empire, where they have been trained by Aidan O’Brien at Ballydoyle in County Tipperary.
What makes Rekindling unusual is that he is in the care of Aidan’s 23-year-old son Joseph O’Brien, who gave up his unequal battle with the scales last year and retired as Irish champion jockey at the age of 22 to become a trainer.
He has not lacked for support and when the Coolmore-connected David Wachman surrendered his licence at the end of last season the then two-year-old Rekindling was one of a number of horses who found a new home with the fledgling trainer, and Williams was happy to lend his support. Rekindling was in fact Wachman’s last runner as a trainer when he finished unplaced a Group 1 two-year-old race in France last October.
“Joseph has a number of horses for me and I am very enthusiastic about his future,” Williams says.
“I have raced horses for over 50 years, and experience tells me that he is perfectly placed to reach the top.”
Williams also has various horses in training with Aidan O’Brien, who was on the receiving end of Rekindling’s success for the n and his son, as O’Brien senior saddled the second, third and fourth in the race behind Rekindling.
“I have known Aidan since his time as a jumping rider in the JP McManus days before he was at Ballydoyle,” Williams reminisced. “JP (Ireland’s leading owner of jump racing horses) is one of my very old friends.”
And what of Rekindling? Could the son of High Chaparral, sire of n champion So You Think, go on to glory at Epsom and emulate his sire, who won both the English and Irish Derbies of 2002?
“The race has a history of producing good horses but Rekindling would need to step up in a race like the Dante Stakes (England’s leading Derby trial run at York over 2100 metres in May) if he is to be a genuine chance,” Williams says.
“Aidan’s horses ran second, third and fourth and he likes them, so time will tell.”
*Williams certainly has history on his side, as derby winners Galileo, High Chaparral and Harzand have all won the Ballysax in the past 16 years, with Ascot Gold Cup winners Yeats and Fame And Glory also getting on the honour roll in that period.