Peter Williams

Lucky Lives On

The emergence of talented Bettor’s Delight three year old pacer Crime Scene has once again thrown the spotlight on a breed that’s produced a host of winners in the last 40 plus years for retired Invercargill vet Peter Williams and his wife Jan.

Trained by Clark Barron, Crime Scene is out of Gross Misconduct whose pedigree traces back to Just Lucky, the first mare Williams bred from in 1971.

However there are two sides to this story as Williams also has a trotting family that’s produced just as many winners and the breed continues to be prominent through the deeds of open class trotter Alley Way.

As a young man Peter Williams trained as a vet as part of the first ever Veterinary class at Massey University in Palmerston North.

“We were the first vets to graduate from Massey in 1967. Before that you had to go to Sydney or Brisbane to train. There were thirty two of us and only two girls. The ratio has changed a bit now,” he said.

Well known and respective Canterbury veterinarian Corin Murfitt was in the same class.

After graduation Williams headed to Southland, expecting to work for Cliff Irvine. The job didn’t eventuate so in November 1967 he started working for Paddy Dunne and Hugh Horner.

“I worked for Paddy for a year and then two other veterinarians came down – Gary Chisholm and Stewart Cameron. In 1969 on holiday, Paddy broke his neck while swimming at Nelson so he leased the practice to the three of us for four years. At the end of the four years the other guys wanted to go, so I took over at Waikiwi.”

Williams says that in those days whilst there was some work on dairy farms, it was nothing like it is now. There were a lot of horse studs in Southland though, including Chelandry Stud, Hampton Lodge (run by Bert Lawton) and Ascot Stud.

And it was through his work at stud farms that Williams acquired his first mare Just Lucky (Hal Tryax – Billarock).

“I got her because they couldn’t get her in foal. They said they were going to shoot her.”

Williams sent her to Majestic Chance and her first foal Lucky Chance arrived in 1971.

Lucky Chance was trained by Henry Skinner and included in her seven wins was the 1978 Greymouth Cup with driver Derek Jones.

“Jan and I had a six month old son at that stage and we took Lucky Chance all the way up to Greymouth through the Haast. Not many people go that way. We couldn’t stay at the Haast Hotel because there was nowhere to put the horse. But there were some whitebait camps down the way and we found a place to stay that had a paddock for the horse. If Henry Skinner could have seen the paddock he would have shot me. We drove on up to Greymouth the next day.”

After running fifth on the first day of the two day meeting Williams heard firsthand what driver Derek Jones thought of her chances in the $5,000 cup carded on the second day.

“I was driving her round the birdcage and Jan was beside some old dears who were good friends of Derek’s and he was telling them that the mare he was driving would go alright. She ended up winning in a track record time. She held the record for about seven years. She was a pretty good start for us in the industry.”

The progeny of Just Lucky continued to provide the Williams with a list of moderate performers all by Majestic Chance including Robstar (2 wins), Vendetta (4 wins), Spuytin Duyril (1 win) and Beretta (2 wins).

She also left Jan’s Chance which was sold as a raffle prize and won twenty three races for Australian trainer Keith Addison including the Group One Queensland Oaks.

One of Just Lucky’s last foals was Lucky Boy (Armbro Del). Trained by Alan Devery he first showed potential when as a three year old be beat handy types in Rameses, Speedy Knight and King Farouk at Invercargill in December 1982. But it was as a four year old that he stamped himself as a quality pacer winning the 1983 DB Superstar Series final. He won a total of five races before being exported to America.

“He was the nicest one we bred. He wintered up at a place owned by Colin King at Lake Hauroko where the horse lived on the hill; feeding at the top and drinking at the bottom all winter without a cover. He came off the place looking like a seal and fit as a trout and that year he won the DB Superstars.”

As well as being William’s first winner in the big time, he also provided the family with a financial windfall.

“McArdle (Bob McArdle) just walked in here for lunch one day – pulled a cheque out of his pocket and said that’s for Lucky Boy. That was it. I’ve never seen a cheque as big – not for a horse. It was big money back then and it got us two thirds of a house in Queenstown.”

The house or crib is appropriately named Lucky Boy Lodge.

So once Lucky Chance finished her career she was sent to stud. And it was through her daughters Luckyship and Luckyship Two that this breed continued to flourish producing horses likes of Rocket Ship which won seven races here before he was exported to America.

“He won a race on Cup Day when most of the field had fallen over or had been brought down. There were only five left standing. Henry always had a guilty conscience about it but as I said it could have been us on the deck.”

Another noted winner from the family was Mr Williams. The talented but unsound gelding (Live Or Die – Lucky Chip) won eleven races in a restricted career.

“The late Murray Gray borrowed the mare and bred Mr Williams. I would never have named it that.”

So the pacing side of the breed continues on, and Crime Scene looks like the next smart one from this side of the Williams breeding story.

Switching gaits, the trotting part of the story also began in the 1970’s.

Foundation mare Princess Way (Keystone Way – Princess Wrack) was bred by Williams in 1974. She left handy trotters Arbitrator (Count Bay) 3 wins, Gregory Peter (Mister Hillis) 6 wins, Arlington (Yankee Jolter) 3 wins and Sundon’s Way (Sundon) 15 wins.

“We were the branding agents for the Southern area. I was branding mares and foals for Vic Bradley. We got talking so that’s how I got Princess Wrack. We got Princess Way out of her.”

Princess Way’s best racetrack performer was one of the early smart types by Canterbury stallion Sundon in Sundon’s Way.

His wins included the 1998 Interdominion Consolation in Sydney, 1998 Ashburton Flying Stakes in New Zealand Record time of 1.57.4, 1999 Bill Collins Mile in Melbourne, two Interdominion Heats in Auckland in 1999 and the 1999 Canterbury Park Trotting Cup at Addington.

But it was one of Princess Way’s daughters that Williams had the most success with.

Whizz Way (Gee Whiz II) won four races for Southland trainer Maurice Skinner and it was her match with Sundon in 2005 that produced William’s best trotter Idid It Myway.

He had high speed and started his career with Invercargill trainer Jeff Williams, winning six races before Colin and Julie De Filippi won a further six with the gelding. He finished his career with Paul Nairn winning his last races from that stable.

Other good winners out of the mare include Any Old Way (7 wins) and Appian Way (6 wins).

Over the years as a vet Peter Williams has operated on thousands on horses in both codes. But one story stands out.

“We did a tie back wind operation on one horse and a split pastern on its close relation and they dead-heated in a race at Wyndham one day.”

The horses were Forest Eagle (Pass With Care – Charlotte’s Sister) trained by George Bennett and Miss Priscilla (Admiral Halsey – Young Charlotte) trained by Peter Davis. Charlotte’s Sister and Young Charlotte were full sisters, both being by Young Charles out of Glenmuick.

In 2017 Peter Williams will have clocked up 50 years as a vet; a record he’s proud of. He still attends galloping meetings as the race course vet but that will end next year once the half century ticks over.

Regardless of being retired he still gets the call ups in times of need.

“I was out this morning sewing up a horse that had been in a fence. I have one or two mares that people want to get served at home, so I do some work like that.”

The number of broodmares he’s breeding from is small these days and the number of race horses with the PFB Williams and Mrs JT Williams name on the ownership line has also reduced, but there’s still a few around. Enough to keep him glued to Trackside.

And there’s a nice Angus Hall yearling heading to the Christchurch sales next year that’s got Peter enthused.

“He’s the prettiest horse I’ve ever bred.”

On the racing front he has a Pegasus Spur three year old out of Whizz Way (Right Way) and a two year old by the same sire called Helluva Way.

I’ll Do It My Way (Sundon) is on the comeback trail for Ryal Bush trainer Nathan Williamson. She won a race last year in her first season racing.

He still owns a share in Any Old Way which is trained by Paul Nairn and was a buy back at the yearling sales.

“Paul said if you don’t get a certain amount for him buy him back and I’ll go you halves. Since then we’ve sold half of our share so we have a quarter share in him.”

On the bigger stage Alley Way still holds an interest. He’s out of No Way, a daughter of Whizz Way and was bred by Neville Skinner.

“We went turn about with the foals out of Whizz Way for a while.”

The only pacing mare he still has an interest in is Falcon Avenue.

The Williams breeding story is definitely not finished, but there’s a bit less to do, and more time to enjoy the grandkids at Lucky Boy Lodge for Peter and Jan.