For someone accustomed to saddling quality horses in big races, trainer Daniel Williams admits to a touch of nerves ahead of Valiant Spirit running at Caulfield.
The three-year-old, who runs in the Sheamus Mills Bloodstock Handicap (1700m) on Saturday, will be his first city runner.
“It won’t help my nerves how many times people tell me that I’ve saddled up good horses before,” Williams said.
Williams has worked in stables for around 15 years after walking in off the street to a job with Gai Waterhouse at Randwick where, by his own admission, he had to be shown how to put on a head collar.
A thirst for knowledge led him to riding and saddling up at the races to being in charge of a team of horses at the beach each morning.
A stretch with Pat Webster followed before a job with Anthony Cummings, lasting seven years, led him to Melbourne.
He took out his own licence just on a year ago and Valiant Spirit has given him his two victories so far.
In fact Valiant Spirit, with six starts under his belt, has been his sole runner at the races.
Valiant Spirit has bumped into some smart types during his brief career, including when fourth behind subsequent Group One winner Merchant Navy on debut at Pakenham in March.
Right from that stage Williams felt Valiant Stage was a potential Derby aspirant and nothing changed after he broke through at Ararat in September over 2000m for his maiden success.
A slight injury put the three-year-old back a few weeks and he returned with an all-the-way win on the synthetic track at Geelong on December 3.
“Last start we realised he might be pretty decent,” Williams said.
“To come back from 2000 metres and lead throughout over 1300 metres at Geelong was pretty outstanding.
“I’ve had him set for this race. It was going to be a shot at the stumps when we started out, but it’s now the logical progression.”
Now based at Mornington in Tony Noonan’s stable, Williams hopes to grow his team.
He says the facilities are first-rate and Valiant Spirit has never been in better shape.
Following Saturday Williams plans to give Valiant Spirit a break and aim towards either the Australian Derby in Sydney or the South Australian Derby.
“I had him earmarked as a Derby horse when he was a two-year-old,” Williams said.
“You have these goals in the back of your head but they don’t always become a reality.
“Let’s see how he goes on Saturday and then we can make plans.”