By Jonny Turner
Immediately after notching his 500th winner, Tim Williams quickly got to work on next half tonne when driving Zambia to victory at Addington on Sunday.
The Canterbury reinsman took no chances with the Paul Kerr trained 4yr-old, spearing him to the front where he held out a late challenge from runner-up Magic Mike.
The victory took Williams to 501 wins in New Zealand after he notched his 500-win milestone behind Down To The Bone at the same track on Friday night.
It was appropriate that the special moment came behind a Robert Dunn trained pacer as he was the man that gave Williams his start in the sport.
And it came well before the driver first saluted the judge in Dunn’s colours with Easy Armbro at Rangiora in 2007.
“Even before I drove my first winner for Robert, he gave me first trial drive and my first workout drive,” Williams said.
“He has been like a second father to me.”
“In the school holidays, [his sons] John and Dexter and I would hang around at the stables – it was what we did.”
“Obviously my partner, Aimee, is John’s wife’s sister – so, there is a really tight connection there.”
Williams had a successful stint in Invercargill at Wayne Adams’ stable after completing his time as a junior driver with Dunn.
Next came a crucial career move to Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen’s All Stars stable.
That brought a serious upgrade in horse power and opportunities in big races.
Williams had made the most of the chances he has worked for, racking up 14 group 1 wins.
When pressed to pick a favourite, he chose his first – Have Faith In Me’s 3yr-old Sires Stakes Final in 2014.
“If I had to choose one I would go with my first,” Williams said.
“Being a Christchurch boy, New Zealand Cup day is our biggest day.”
“To do it there in front of my family and friends was pretty special.”
Williams did not stop once he get a taste of group 1 glory.
By the end of the same season he had won the Northern and New Zealand Derbies and a Harness Jewels title with Have Faith In Me.
And another special filly helped him round out a whirlwind 12 months with six group 1 titles.
Williams had a special bond with Dream About Me, who won a 2yr-old Sires Stakes Final and Harness Jewels to set up an incredible five season career.
“She was a great mare.”
“And I think the best thing about her was she was able to do it right from when she was two through until her last start when she was six and ran 1.50 in her last start.”
Williams clearly gets to sit behind classy horses, but he does not take it for granted and strives to improve his driving skills.
“Obviously I get to drive some nice horses.”
“There is a balance there and the key is not to overdrive them”
“I still talk to Mark and Natalie about driving quite a bit and tap in to their knowledge, obviously because they are both masters.”