05/30/2013 3:47PM

Hastings: Williams, back from Woodbine, is happy to be home


VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Danny Williams is happy to be back in British Columbia after spending the last 12 years as a jockey agent at Woodbine. Williams is hoping for a good effort from a horse he trains, Proxyman, in his debut Saturday in the second race at Hastings.

Williams has deep roots at Hastings. His grandfather, Cline Hoggard, was a prominent owner and breeder. His father, Ronnie Williams, was inducted into the British Columbia racing Hall of Fame as a jockey in 1989 and had a short but successful career as a trainer before he died at Hastings from a brain aneurysm at age 32. His mother, Barb Williams, has been involved with the Thoroughbred Ladies Club for as long as anyone can remember.

The family tradition is being carried on by Danny Williams’s son, Scott, who won the Sovereign Award as the top apprentice in Canada last year.

Danny Williams, 53, also was a successful jockey. He was the leading apprentice at Hastings, then named Exhibition Park, in 1978, and in a career cut short due to weight issues, he won 482 races.

The decision to move back to British Columbia wasn’t a financial one. The slot-fueled purses at Woodbine helped provide him with a good living as an agent. His best year was in 2008, when his main rider, Jim McAleney, won 162 races, and his mounts earned close to $8 million. An agent usually receives 25 percent of what a jockey earns, and there isn’t much doubt that Williams is taking a substantial cut in pay by moving back to British Columbia.

His wife, Karen, works for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and when she was offered a job in Kamloops, British Columbia, it helped the family, which includes daughters Chelsea and Natasha, make the decision to head west.

“It was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up,” Danny Williams said. “I certainly enjoyed the people and working at Woodbine, but we all felt Toronto was just too big of a city for us. We’re more used to the laid-back attitude here. Really, the big thing was that I missed my family. Having Scott riding full time at Hastings this year really sealed the deal.”

Danny Williams, who also exercises horses for trainer Anita Bolton, isn’t starting a new career as a trainer. After he hung up his tack in 1982, he trained horses mostly owned by his grandfather for a few years.

“I did okay,” Williams said. “I remember one horse, Delta Laddie, winning six races in one year. Brazenesian was the first horse I trained. My grandfather owned him, and I won three races with him, including the Autumn Leaves.”

Williams moved on to become an agent in 1990, and his proudest accomplishment was helping Mark Patzer set a record with 173 wins in 1991.

As an agent at Woodbine, he added to his knowledge about training horses by hanging around with Terry Jordan and Lorne Richards, who were very successful when they moved their stables from Hastings to Woodbine.

“When they first went to Woodbine, they had an advantage in that the people in Toronto had no idea what kind of horses they were bringing in from the west,” Williams said. “Terry has always said it isn’t rocket science. If you run the best horse, you’re probably going to win the race. He was running horses that were worth $40,000 for 20 and getting away with it.”

Williams doesn’t think he is getting away with anything by running Proxyman in a $10,000 maiden-claiming race.

“I only paid $800 for him at the winter sale in Ontario last year,” Williams said. “I am not that familiar with the horses he’s running against here, but if he doesn’t run well, he’ll be in for $5,000 next time.”

In his varied career in horse racing, including a two-year stint as the assistant racing secretary at Hastings, Williams said the thing he likes most about the business is riding horses. He exercises the two horses he trains and gallops quite a few for Bolton.

“I loved being a jockey and would have continued riding if my weight didn’t stop me,” Williams said. “I just love riding horses and am thrilled to be able to still do it.”

The other horse Williams trains is Agirlsgottalive, who will be making her first start of the year Sunday. Williams also owns the 3-year-old filly, but she was trained by Tim Rycroft when she closed out her 2-year-old year with a win in a $12,000 maiden race at Northlands Park last September.

“It was pretty special because it was Scott’s 100th win for the year,” Williams said.

Scott Williams has won 188 races in his short career and has his sights set on surpassing his father’s total.

“He knows exactly how many races I won as a rider, and we’re both hoping he’ll fly by me,” Danny Williams said. “I am very proud of him, and that was one of the highlights of my life, when the whole family was together when he accepted the Sovereign Award.”