Promotional Feature with NAF
Christian Williams is flying high at the end of the 2021/22 National Hunt season, after a one-two in the Scottish Grand National. The NAF-sponsored trainer tells H&H how he keeps his horses in peak condition.
The Welsh jumps trainer may run a small racing yard, but he’s more than a match for the larger training outfits in the big races. On a sunny February afternoon earlier this year, Christian cheered home two major winners within just 15 minutes of spellbinding action live on ITV.
At Newcastle, the mare Win My Wings flew past the winning post to land the Vertem Eider Chase, followed moments later by Cap Du Nord taking the £150,000 Coral Trophy. Three weeks later, Win My Wings lined up alongside stablemate Kitty’s Light in the Scottish Grand National – the pair finished first and second.
“Those were highlights of the season,” says Christian Williams, who rounded off the 2021/22 campaign (23 April) with his best ever total of 34 winners. “The big ITV races are what we target. They push up the profile of the yard, and we have been having some good results in the feature races.
“Kitty’s Light and Win my Wings have been outstanding; they are both wonderful horses,” he adds. “They are two freaks that cost £5,000 and £9,000, probably the cheapest of the 18 runners in the Scottish National, yet they proved the two best horses in the race. They are freakish, and we’ve managed to get their mindsets right.”
Christian’s emphasis on keeping his horses sound in body and mind runs through every facet of his training operation. From training to turnout to management, Christian considers the needs of the horse first and foremost.
“My favourite thing is horses, not humans,” he smiles.
All his horses are turned out daily; some live out 24/7 – “I love horses and I don’t like seeing them shut in stables; it’s nice to see them wandering around with their ears pricked”.
His stunning base, Ogmore Farm on the coast of South Wales, may not have gallops or a horsewalker, but instead Christian makes the most of the steep sand dunes, beach, seawater and river. Everything he does is designed to relax the horse and take away any tension derived from a racing career.
“We try to take all the stress away from them so they can conserve their energy for the race,” he explains. “You’ll see our horses tend to be calm and relaxed in their preliminaries. Win My Wings has really relaxed since she arrived; she used to be very highly strung.”
He works the horses single file, so they don’t race each other on a daily basis, and they wind down splashing about in the river running alongside the stable yard, which has the added benefit of cooling the legs.
“Most of our work is slow and steady, going along in a relaxed manner – it’s good for their minds,” he says. “Never mind the physical side, the horse has to be mentally right as well.”
Christian has been supported by leading supplement and care product manufacturer NAF from the very start of his training career.
“We have a great relationship,” Christian says.
He uses three products on a daily basis, NAF Gastro Form, Clean Wind and Rapid Recovery.
NAF’s racing manager Sammy Martin, says: “The three core products that Christian feeds to all of his horses have been formulated specifically to meet the demands of the racehorse.
“Clean Wind is perfect for optimising respiratory function while Gastro Form maximises digestive health. And Rapid Recovery does what it says on the tin, helping horses to perform at their very best. Our team of nutritionists and vets have not only formulated these products, but they are also on hand to ensure that we’re giving Christian the best possible advice – we work to be part of the team.”
Christian is delighted with the way his horses look and perform, and especially how the more highly strung types have settled.
“I put this down to the low-stress way we manage the horses, as well as the NAF supplements we feed,” he says.
The Gastro Form is given in the feed, and the daily dose of both NAF Clean Wind and Rapid Recovery is administered via syringe after the horses have worked.
The Clean Wind is designed to support respiratory health, immunity and aerobic capacity and Christian gives it to all horses regardless of whether they have suspected wind issues or not.
“We want to use whatever is available to help our horses perform at their best,” he says.
Christian believes the Rapid Recovery had a very positive impact on Win My Wings’ health after her Newcastle victory in February. It is designed for use following peak exertion and helps flush away free radicals that have built up in the muscles.
“Win My Wings was very distressed after winning at Newcastle and came home looking like she had lost quite a lot of weight,” Christian explains. “But thanks to the Rapid Recovery, she came back to herself within three or four days. And three weeks later, she won the Scottish National!”
Christian, a former Grade One-winning jockey who was runner-up in the Grand National, only started training in 2018, with just three horses. He is rapidly scaling the ranks with his unique, instinctive approach, to target the most high-profile races in jump racing.
Christian says he doesn’t count winners, he doesn’t model himself on other trainers and he doesn’t strictly plan a horse’s workload, instead watching the animal in front of him on the day to decide what he needs. He’s happy to go against the grain, but the waves he’s making from his coastal base are landing him in the best winner’s enclosures in the country.