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IT’S a mighty long way from Salisbury in the UK to Nowra on the NSW South Coast – but Angus Villiers has handled it in his stride! 

At only his second ride in Australia there yesterday, the 21-year-old English apprentice (he will turn 22 early next month) rode a winner for his new boss, Kembla Grange trainer Mitch Beer.

And certainly the wet and dreary conditions would have been something he would have been accustomed to back home.

The Nowra track had been downgraded to a “Soft 7” for the sixth of seven races (and a Heavy 8 for the closer) when Villiers bolted home on former Queensland mare Shalook ($8.50) in the Benchmark 58 Handicap (1200m).

The young Englishman made his riding debut in Oz only two days ago at his new home track on fellow Kembla Grange trainer Tryone Coyle’s unplaced $26 chance Prince Aurelius in a Benchmark 64 Handicap (1400m).

Villiers had his first ride on May 16 2019 at Salisbury - the very same track where the legendary nine times English Derby winner Lester Piggott also made his debut in April 1948 - and finished third on Creek Harbour.

Similar to his Australian scenario, he posted his first winner a week later on Motajaasid at Lingfield in a Claiming Stakes.

Whilst Villiers has only just resurrected his riding career, he is no stranger to Australia.

“Angus travelled out with English stayer Deauville Legend, who started favorite and ran fourth in the 2022 Melbourne Cup,” Beer said today en route home from the Magic Millions yearling sale where he “got a couple”.

“Angus liked Australia so much that he decided to stay here, and rode work for Chris Waller at Flemington.

“When he decided he wanted to relaunch is career, it was recommended he come to me, and has been with us for seven or eight months.

“He has ridden over 50 winners, including one at Royal Ascot, and rides at 57kg at present.

“Angus is working hard, and is very popular with Kembla Grange trainers.

“He can claim 1.5kg anywhere, and I’m sure he will make the grade.

“It’s great to see him get going again. He had a bad trot with injuries back home for a while.”

Beer was referring to two nasty falls Villiers had – one on the track, and the other away from it going at a different pace.

He sustained a punctured liver and bruised lung when, at his first ride for Godolphin, he clipped heels on favorite Arabian Warrior in the early stages of a 2800m Handicap at Wolverhampton in November 2020.

He was sidelined for three months and then, a few months after resuming, hit a pothole and went over the handlebars of his mountain bike whilst riding around the roads at Newmarket, and fractured a shoulder.

Villiers will be back in action chasing further success at Moruya on Friday and Kembla Grange on Saturday.

Beer was equally pleased to get four-year-old mare Shalook, a daughter of Shalaa, back in the winning list.

“Shalook was a $100,000 Magic Millions yearling in 2021 and did her early racing in Queensland, where she was placed twice from four starts,” Beer said.

“We bought her the following year for $30,000 at the National Broodmare sale at the Gold Coast with the aim of racing her initially, and she won first-up for us at Gundagai later that year, and twice again at Wagga and Albury early last year.

“Shalook’s owners have been very patient and the Nowra win was her fourth, dropping back from stronger class at her two previous runs back at Hawkesbury and Canberra.

“Hopefully, we can win another one or two with her before she probably goes to stud later in the year.”

Story John Curtis, January 15

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