Williams’ admission raises questions for racing fans – and stewards

Tristan Rayner Editor

By Tristan Rayner, Tristan Rayner is a Roar Editor

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    Jockey Kerrin McEvoy (right) with owner Llyod Williams after their win with Almandin in the 2016 Melbourne Cup at Flemington Racecourse. (AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy)

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    Lloyd Williams declaring he is the head trainer at Macedon Lodge has seen a wave of reactions, but the real question is if anything will be done about it.

    Longtime ‘trainer’ and servant Robert Hickmott left the operation last week – off to have a go on his own in Adelaide, from reports – replaced by next-in-line Liam Howley.

    Williams was initially quiet, with just a few text messages swapped with Racing.com, thanking and sending Hickmott on his way with blessings. He then made the unusual move, when on Sky Sports Radio, to state in no uncertain terms that he was the head trainer.

    “You are talking to the head trainer here,” Williams said.

    “There’s always controversy over who trains the horses isn’t it?

    “The blueprint emanates right here, I’m chairman and chief executive, I decide how the horses will work and how we’ll feed them and all those sorts of things and I have people up there who execute it, that is what happens.”

    The move was surprising, and not because it wasn’t even the worst-kept secret in racing – it’s been out in the open for some time, and something that Racing Victoria’s integrity commission investigated around three years ago, according to chief executive Giles Thompson.

    Lloyd’s admission, though, causes problems. He’s found a way around the rules that come with being a licensed person – trainer, jockey, and so on.

    That means the buck, or at least the rules of racing, stops with the bloke with the license-holder, not Lloyd, should any integrity issues arise.

    A shock cobalt positive, an irregular swab, or perhaps an aggressive pursuit by stewards of apparent pacemaking by a Williams horse – far more likely – would see the trainer in hot water.

    But not the ‘head trainer’.

    It’s open season on Team Williams after his sixth Melbourne Cup win, which wasn’t exactly as popular as a figure like Bart Cummings adding to his tally.

    Australia loves a battler, a larrikin, a shout of the bar, a big charity donation – not so much a leviathan who simply outspends everyone else, with not much for anyone else.

    And that’s fine – Lloyd does it his way, along with his son Nick, who is a big part of the operation and the face of the show on race day.

    But the open admission means Pandora’s box is open. There are too many examples of rich and powerful having the resources to find loopholes, and the huge operation has been able to find something that works for them.

    Racing Victoria have said they’ll pose some questions for Lloyd Williams, but it’s highly unlikely that such a big part of (staying) racing in Victoria will be thrown out.

    A slow tightening of the rules, perhaps?

    Tristan Rayner
    Tristan Rayner

    Tristan is a writer, consultant, racing enthusiast and former Editor of The Roar who has turned the Melbourne Cup into a year-round study via racingtalk.com.au.

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    The Crowd Says (5)

    • Roar Guru

      November 23rd 2017 @ 5:24pm
      kv joef said | November 23rd 2017 @ 5:24pm | ! Report

      Have been waiting for the roar to comment and well put tristan. Certainly Lloyd leads the nomination list for the dumb-arz of the year award. Moody got it last year and Llyod’s got a mortgage on it this year. what is it with victoria 🙂 ,must be something in the water.

      firstly,Lloyd hasn’t broken any rules. A managing owner has the authority to instruct his ‘trainer’ on any matter and that means ANY … because he owns the horse. the trainer can refuse or if the horse’s welfare is in jeopardy or illegalities involved, the trainer can report any matter to the stewards.

      Your LAST POINT IS VALID – three times times this year abundant confusion about the relationship between racing managers, owners and trainers have thrown careers into turmoil. Ultimately, the trainer ends-up holding the can. So you can see why many of the top stables make owners sign contracts of relationship … bit hard if you are a ‘private’ trainer.

    • November 23rd 2017 @ 6:49pm
      Razzar said | November 23rd 2017 @ 6:49pm | ! Report

      “ You are talking to the head trainer here” But is he the official trainer…Lloyd does sound a little pompous. Wealth can get one Melbourne Cups, but not always public admiration.

    • November 23rd 2017 @ 6:49pm
      MAX said | November 23rd 2017 @ 6:49pm | ! Report

      Thank you learned gentlemen.

      Lloyd’s law is lamentable but legal.

      If fines are imposed on Messrs. O’Brien and Kavanagh for being guilty of presenting
      their horses with excessive Cobalt readings it will be most interesting to see the reforms
      arising therefrom.

    • Roar Guru

      November 25th 2017 @ 10:06am
      ScottWoodward.me said | November 25th 2017 @ 10:06am | ! Report

      Tristan,
      It was the Roars Jimmy Smith along with Ray Thomas who got this scoop. I understand that Jimmy is trying to get an official response from the Chief Steward on Sky Racings Big Breaky weekend this Sunday.
      For someone as smart as Lloyd it certainly was a dumb thing to say, even if everyone knew anyway. It smelt of elitism.
      Leaving official records aside and just going on what we know, I wonder where Lloyd sits in Australian racing in the list of greatest trainers of stayers?
      Does Lloyd Williams deserve to be on the same list as:
      Bart Cummings
      Lee Freedman
      James Scobie
      Etienne de Mestre
      Walter Hickenbotham

    • January 11th 2018 @ 3:42pm
      Paul said | January 11th 2018 @ 3:42pm | ! Report

      Money doesn’t buy class

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