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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?