Craig Williams had always believed that winning was ephemeral – short lasting, like the rush of riding speedster Ortensia to victory in an Al Quoz Sprint in Meydan in under 58 seconds.
Once you blink, it's over. You enjoy in the spoils for a short time before you're brought back down to earth half an hour later in the next race.
That was until he won a Melbourne Cup.
Craig Williams says winning the 2019 Melbourne Cup has been life changing.Credit:Quinn Rooney
The cliche that one race can be so life changing was never lost on Williams, particularly after 15 losing attempts in the great race, but last year’s victory on Vow And Declare was everything he could have dreamed and more.
"My wife has already told me, 'Let's do that again, that was an amazing feeling', and I remember after doing the media parade and everything the next day, it went for four or five hours and she said, 'How are ya?' " Williams recalled.
"I said, 'I'm tired, I've got homework to do for Oaks day and then I've got the family day at the end of the carnival.'
"She goes, 'Well you've had 15 goes at it, which one do you want, this one or the last 15 when you're not as tired and you've done your homework?'
"And I said, 'Nah, let's have this one again.' It is so amazing."
Williams, 43, is on a never-ending quest to improve, whether it's via books – he's an avid reader – or with the help of his extended team of coaches and mentors.
Most would recall his winning speech moments after the Melbourne Cup, which seemed to last forever and included tributes to the likes of his tennis coach Bryce Lindeman.
Danny O’Brien holds the Melbourne Cup with Craig Williams after winning with Vow And Declare.Credit:Getty Images
One would ask what tennis has to do with racing, but Williams is able to take bits and pieces from all his advisors to make him a better rider.
"One day at Flemington, it was one of the championships and my biggest rival in the [jockeys' premiership] was Damien Oliver to fight out the win," he recalled.
"I remember he drew a better gate than me and he rode his horse really well and had a big advantage over me and I would love to have that ride again, and I remember just going back and resetting and realising it was only one point.
"It wasn't the end of the match and it wasn't the end of the set, it was just one point or game and we had many games to go, and I rode three winners that day. It was great I could reset and that's a big part of the people I have around me."
Others he leans on include his father Allan Williams – a great jockey in his own right – and his 'uncle Jimmy' Biggins – who would drive him to country meetings but is no longer able to due to COVID-19 – and his golf coach Vaughan Somers, his manager Jason Breen, or former jockeys David Price and Rodney Quinn.
"Where I'm very fortunate, when I was growing up my father was my master and we never lose that contact, so I've always been lucky enough, I've never really left my apprenticeship," Williams said.
"When I talk about my team and I talk about my coaches, it's probably not that specific or simplified down to one core person but they all play a major part into where I am now. With all those groups I pick out where their strengths are and they all work individually on certain areas."
Also new to Williams over the past 12 months is the insight he provides punters via his social media platforms; footage from his helmet while he's riding some of the spring's leading contenders in trackwork.
It provides Williams with huge satisfaction, particularly when he's on the back of a horse like Surprise Baby as he gears towards a 17th Melbourne Cup attempt.
"You can see he's already got a following and it's just nice we can share the perspective that I get on him," he said.
"I love to be able to do that. I like the sound of the horses moving and everything.
"He's going the right way, [Surprise Baby]. His first-up run was excellent and he's trained on since then.
"His trainer Paul Preusker is really happy with him and I'm really looking forward to the Turnbull Stakes on Saturday. If he's not winning he'll be running well, but I expect him to be very competitive out to 2000 metres at Flemington."
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