Venetia Williams at Ascot BSI

‘You Have To Give Bookmakers Credit’ – Venetia Williams on Modern Horse Racing

One of Britain’s great horse racing trainers, Venetia Williams, has singled out the betting industry for credit in the success of modern horse racing.

Williams gives us a candid take on the financial realities of National Hunt racing in Britain, Ireland and France. Plus, she sheds light on the chances of the Middle East getting more involved in jumps racing and what gives her a constant appetite for success as a trainer.

Horse Racing Is In A Strong Place And Bookmakers Need A Lot of Credit For That

Yes. I think the sport is still very strong. I know there is a lot of doom and gloom about, and the finances to keep the sport going forward are always a challenge. But I do think if we are not careful it is easy to talk ourselves into a corner.

National Hunt racing is a phenomenal sport. People are forever comparing prize money in Britain with other countries that race, which from a jumping point of view is only really Britain, Ireland and France that are pretty strong.

That is inevitable because you have got to have countries where the weather is conducive and there is plenty of rain.

I know prize money is better in France, but people there own horses for their earning capacity. Owning a horse in France for the social enjoyment point of view doesn’t have nearly as much value as it does in Britain.

That is one of the reasons we are able to go over there and buy their horses. We put a lot more value on what the horse can do, and the places it can take us and the enjoyment we can get.

Jumps racing is such a great social sport in Britain which attracts thousands of people who go to the races. In France you hardly get anybody.

You have to give credit to bookmakers for that. We have got bookmakers and the atmosphere of going to the races and having a bet with the bookies rather than on a Tote machine which applies everywhere else. That is a big element of what has made British racing such a fantastic social event.

If we had only a Tote system, you wouldn’t have the atmosphere at the races and the enthusiasm for going racing.

*Venetia Williams-trained Royal Pagaille is 25/1 to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup per the latest Cheltenham Betting Odds at BoyleSports.

Horse Prices Indicate How Popular The Sport Is

Everything is cyclical. The prices being paid is an indication for the popularity of the sport and how many people want to get involved at a high level. That is your answer.

There is a lot of press and social media and the very fact there is so much is because there is such a great interest in the sport. There is only so much people can write about and bad news always has more energy than good news.

Any competition with a large population of competitors is a pyramid and at the very top it is very thin air. Very few are there. They are only there because they are the best.

Will The Middle East Dominate Jumps Like They Have The Flat?

Absolutely not. Sheikh Mohammed won the Champion Hurdle twice in the early 1990s with Kribensis and Royal Gait and if that wasn’t going to bring him into the sport then what would? I can’t see them getting involved in jumps racing, and probably just as well!

*Derma Sotogake is the 3/1 favourite for the Dubai World Cup, one of the biggest flat races in the Middle East, according to the latest horse racing odds at BoyleSports.

‘My Appetite Is As Strong As Ever’

We had our first runner at the end of October and we have had 38 winners and the prize money we have clocked up is about £900,000. We are fourth in the trainers’ championship with a fraction of the runners that Paul, Dan and Nicky have had!

I have to be pleased with life at the moment. My appetite is as strong as ever as a bit of success re-ignites the passion. Our record year was the season before last when L’Homme Presse won at the Cheltenham Festival. That was about £1.5million. We are looking to potentially challenge that but I don’t want to tempt fate.

*Venetia Williams-trained L’Homme Presse is 16/1 to win the 2024 Cheltenham Gold Cup per the latest Cheltenham Betting odds at BoyleSports.

It is hugely exciting to be where we are at the moment when we are only just into January. We have had between a half and a third of what everyone else has had in the top ten trainers. That is really exciting. I always say there’s a craving for winners that never dies.

I think it is a fortunate time in that we have quite a few of our French imports who are chasing for the first time. That is always a time to look forward to. Times are tight so you have to look at the prize money when deciding what to run where. I do that a lot.

We have run about 65 horses or so and we have probably got another 20 that might still come out this season.

We are not focusing on anything really. You just see who sends you horses, see who you can persuade into having another.

*Prices subject to fluctuation.

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