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Norman Williamson – underrated or real top class?

Home Forums Horse Racing Norman Williamson – underrated or real top class?

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    Avatar photoEx RubyLight
    • Total Posts 3851

    Just had a look at his stats and the partnerships he was involved in.

    I always thought of him as a quite consistent jockey (maintained a strike-rate of around 18-20%) who got along with a lot of class horses and was particularly successful over fences.

    He won almost every big race in GB outside the Cheltenham Festival and the partnership he struck with Venetia was a very impressive one. Between 1999-2003 her stable had more potential than it has nowadays and it all happened with very shrewd buys. Without taking anything away from Royale Pagaille, Teeton Mill was the horse with more potential.

    Norman also had that Festival double in 1995 with Alderbrook and Master Oats, won a lot of Graded Races especially Novices’ Chases (Pendil, Reynoldstown, Scilly Isles, Henri VIII, Lightning and so on) and was a regular at Irish Festivals.

    I was just wondering why people talk a lot more about Ruby (understandable), AP, Geraghty, Russell, about their most remarkable rides and winners. However his name is rarely mentioned.

    Any views?

    Avatar photoPurwell
    • Total Posts 1478

    Wasn’t he involved in some scandal? Hanky Panky type not drugs or gambling. Maybe he upset the media.

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    • Total Posts 2870

    His best ride was obviously on Brown Sedge at Listowel in 2002. Three runner race and on the outsider. One horse fell and brought the other down at the first leaving Norman’s horse to jump the whole race on his own. I was on at 10/1 so not at all biased.

    I believe I may have seen his last ride at Listowel but not certain. I do remember him not riding one day after picking up an injury but was still called to the Stewards room(?) over the tannoy. Not long after that he retired (2003 I think).

    Avatar photocormack15
    • Total Posts 9202

    Not sure about any hanky panky Purwell but he did narrowly miss out on prison (by a whisker according to the judge) after a drink driving offence where he was found to be three times over the limit.

    I’d say he was a top class rider but his career was relatively short, in comparison to McCoy and Walsh, retiring at 34 on medical advice. Had he had another decade I think his name would be more revered.

    Avatar photoDrone
    • Total Posts 5951

    I wouldn’t promote Williamson from the ranks of ‘capable jockeys’ – which is praise enough – but I do recall one race in which he excelled: the 1997 Peter Marsh Chase on Jodami over those big, black, beautiful drop fences at Haydock, in which he produced Jodami into the narrow gap between the flailing whippers aboard Avro Anson and Unguided Missile; a test which tough old stick Jodami – who was by then a 12yo – seemed to relish

    As an aside, in 1998 there was an event called ‘The Festival Of British Racing’ or somesuch held at York racecourse, which was supposed to be a celebratory jamboree but turned out to be a damp squib resembling a January Monday at Lingfield Park, and was never held again. Anyway, the now retired Jodami turned up with trainer Peter Beaumont in the saddle strutting his stuff around the Members’ Lawn. Great to see the old horse at close quarters and I was permitted a pat of Jodami’s warm, soft nose…nice :good:

    • Total Posts 9152

    My lasting memory of him is when Nick Dundee came down in a race and Williamson grabbed hold of him which probably prevented him from damaging himself further. And another horse whose name I’ve forgotten being fatally injured in a race and he was totally distraught by it. I always felt that, unlike McCoy, he genuinely cared for the horses he rode. Of course, I’m probably wrong, but that’s how I saw it at the time.

    Avatar photoIanDavies
    • Total Posts 13000

    Never rated “Stormin’ Norman” that highly tbh.

    Back in the day, when first interested, I reckoned Jonjo O’Neill was strongest in the finish and John Francome was best tactically and at an obstacle.

    Francome improved his technique in a finish, O’Neill didn’t improve his horsemanship or tactical awareness, so Francome was top dog for me.

    Subsequent to that I considered Tony McCoy just as good tactically and at an obstacle as Francome and, if anything, even stronger than O’Neill in a finish.

    And McCoy remains, for me, the all-time best Jumps jockey.

    Some prefer Ruby Walsh and, while Walsh was very good, McCoy had the edge for me, and NOT because he didn’t come off at the last in big races as much as Walsh did, something that a genuine eye-catching stat as Kevin Blake once illustrated in an article on the subject.

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    • Total Posts 2

    I have exactly the same memory as you Moehat. It was in the Sun Alliance Chase. Norman risked his own safety to save the horse and irrespective of his capabilities as a jockey I respected him greatly afterwards.

    Avatar photoyeats
    • Total Posts 3380

    Think Drone has it about right having Norman as a capable jockey. Personally I would have someone like Mark Dwyer above him. Jonjo was overrated for me, I would have the likes of McCoy, Francome, Dunwoody and Scu well in front of him. Compare the meal he often made of riding a finish on the likes of Sea Pigeon and Little Bay to when Francome won on those horses.

    John Francome has always said that the best jockey never to be champion was Jeff King. From what I remember of him I would agree with that.

    • Total Posts 2948

    He falls somewhere inbetween but more towards the latter side of the options for me – not your first or second choice if they were available but you knew you would not be lacking for assistance from the saddle if you had him on your horse.

    Francome was an artist in the saddle (probably due to his showjumping background) and nobody presented a horse better at an obstacle than him, he was predominately a hands and heels rider in a finish (would probably be well suited to the current whip rules today) and wasn’t the strongest in a finish although he did improve.

    For me Ruby was a better rider than McCoy, who to me was more the go to jockey on a wet Wednesday at Towcester or if you had a horse that required pushing and pushing and pushing….would have loved to have seen him on Bonanza Boy (who Scu got on well with and was a similar type jockey to McCoy).

    Overall I always liked Dunwoody the best, presented horses at a fence in a similar way as Francome did and could easily match McCoy in an all action driving finish and I always liked the way with (both hands on the reins resting on a horses withers) he would encourage them with a little flick of his wrist and the whip would just tap them on the shoulder……pretty sure that is a no no now under the new rules.

    Such a shame that a serious injury forced his premature retirement but some of the things he has done for charity (treked to the South Pole, walked 2000 miles across Japan and 1000 Mile Challenge for charity where he walked the same mile 1000 consecutive times in Newmarket for 1000 consecutive hours) shows just how tough he really was.

    Think we can all agree that we have been blessed with some incredibly talented and varied styles of jockeys through the years.

    • Total Posts 9152

    Dunwoody still does charity work in Northumberland and travels over every year. He’s an accomplished photographer now. I was concerned for him when he was forced to retire, because he was so driven; it must be so hard for a jockey to not be in the right place mentally when they have to give up riding. He’s an admirable man.

    • Total Posts 178

    For some reason or other Kim Bailey used to refer to him as “Naughty Norman” around the same time broke up with wife Tracy……….

    Avatar photoEx RubyLight
    • Total Posts 3851

    Thanks for the reminder Father Jack. I think he never (or rarely) used him again afterwards.

    Drone, great upload that 1997 Peter Marsh Chase. Loved to see Jodami in action again

    • Total Posts 760

    He seemed to be towards the elite end of riders without being quite at the pinnacle. I think he came over and joined an in decline John Edwards.

    He seemed to fall foul in relations and conduct with some. Apart from Bailey he lost the ride on Looks Like Trouble and I recall some indiscretion meant Jimmy McCarthy deputised on Decoupage to win the Tote Gold Trophy.

    Avatar photoEx RubyLight
    • Total Posts 3851

    Maybe, pirgarlic. But he retained the ride on Decoupage and rode him in the last six of his remaining seven career starts.

    just had a look at the 1999 Punchestown Festival: on the 29th of April 1999 British raiders won three from eight races on the cards including two Grade 1s. They had numerous runners that day, but that trend is long gone.

    Avatar photoCork All Star
    • Total Posts 8260

    “I think he came over and joined an in decline John Edwards.”

    That is my recollection as well. He was an average journeyman jockey for several years until he got on the likes of Alderbrook and Master Oats.

    He was a decent enough jockey but it is a stretch of the imagination to call him top class.

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