Lloyd's dream becomes a rewarding obsession
Magic touch ... Lloyd Williams with Green Moon, which gave the owner his fourth Melbourne Cup win on Tuesday. Photo: Vince Caligiuri
TO DESCRIBE the Williams family's focus on the Melbourne Cup as a magnificent obsession would be a gross understatement.
The patriarch of the organisation, property developer and casino boss Lloyd Williams, has spent a lifetime in pursuit of this holy grail. He has spent fortunes in the process, investing millions on horses from firstly New Zealand and latterly Europe as he chases the perfect blend of stamina, toughness and speed required to triumph in Australia's greatest race.
If it is the pinnacle of any owner's career to win one Melbourne Cup, then Williams has reached multiple peaks. Having first tasted Cup glory with Just A Dash in 1981, he feasted further on What A Nuisance (1985) and Efficient (2007) before gorging on Green Moon on Tuesday, an astonishing fourth win in a race most owners struggle to even have a runner in.
Once, stoutly bred New Zealand stayers were Williams's Cup weapons of choice. Then he shifted his emphasis to stamina-packed European gallopers.
But Green Moon is a horse in the new Williams template - a 2000-2400-metre specialist bought out of a European stable and recalibrated for Australian racing conditions, and then sent to do battle in perfect condition on the one day that matters more than all others combined to his obsessive owner.
Robert Hickmott is listed in the racebook as Green Moon's trainer, but, as son Nick Williams explained afterwards, it is his father, who watched the race on television at the family's 120-hectare Macedon Lodge training complex, who calls the shots. After 50 years in the business and having had some of the nation's top trainers looking after his gallopers it would be hardly surprising if Williams had not picked up some of the secrets of the best.
''It's his dream, he's a great strategist in everything he does,'' Nick said. ''Every moment in these horses campaigns are planned down to a tee and he is literally over the moon about it. Anyone that ever gets into racing or bought a 1/100th share in a horse, whether it's a sprinter or a stayer, has that dream one night, that they would love their horse to run in the Melbourne Cup. We are just a bad example of that taken to extremes.''
He struggled to recall how many runners his father has had in the Cup over five decades, but said it was never easy to even get one to post.
''It's that hard to do. It must be close to 75 or 80, and he's won it four times. It's not easy. You only have to look back to think that five weeks ago we had five horses that potentially could have run in this race and we were down to two today. The amount of miles you have to get into their legs [means that they can go wrong at any time]. It's a white-knuckle ride.''
Reuniting with Brett Prebble, said Nick Williams, also made it a memorable win. The Williams family enjoyed success with the now Hong Kong-based hoop when he was a youngster learning his trade in Melbourne.