While all eyes are on the jockeys on the track notching up win after win, behind the scenes are people that could be called ‘the glue’ holding it all together. Patrick Mills is Craig Williams’ valet, tasked with anticipating what the Melbourne Cup-winning jockey needs, before he even knows himself.
One of Australia’s greatest jockeys, Craig Williams has not only claimed the Lexus Melbourne Cup (in 2019), has a slew of other Group 1 wins to his name, and has been crowned Victoria’s leading metropolitan jockey nine times.
It is a fantastic achievement from a dedicated and talented rider. He is generous in admitting, however, that part of that success is due to the team behind him. And part of that team is his valet, Patrick Mills.
In his role, Mills is in control of every piece of gear on race day. He organises and takes it all into the jockeys’ room as early as three hours before the first race, quipping, “we are usually the first ones there, and the last to leave.”
Mills sets up the gear in the jockeys’ room, which can include girths, surcingles, light foam packing for under the saddles, non-slip rubber for heavier saddles, lead bags, vest plates and riding boots. Mills is also responsible for Williams’ saddles, of which the jockey has four or five to suit different weighted horses throughout the day.
It’s a job that requires attention to detail and an ability to work well under pressure. Some have described it as being like a butler, manager, and confidant, all in one. He got his start when he began assisting his grandfather, Vin Mills, Williams’ long-time valet, alongside his brother, Ethan.
Racing has always been a part of their life. “Dad and my uncles were jockeys and racing has just always been around. Since I have been working in the industry though, I have come to understand it more and more. One of the best parts of the job is knowing the jockeys and seeing them as regular people, rather than the celebrities they may be outside on course.”
In the jockeys’ room, Mills is kept busy. He lays out the gear before each race and there is the constant scrubbing or polishing of boots (a task made more demanding on wet track days) and various other jobs. At the end of the day he packs all of the gear and has the silks laundered.
This allows Williams to concentrate on what they do best: race riding. “Mills is a big part of my race day preparation,” said Williams. “If I want to walk the track between races I have the luxury of him organising my gear, so I still have time to go out and look at the track … it allows me to prepare and do the best for my races.”
Looking at Williams’ track record, it would seem that this preparation has paid off. His win in the 2019 Lexus Melbourne Cup fulfilled a lifelong dream to win Australia’s biggest race, and his valet couldn’t be more proud. Mills cheered Williams on from the mounting yard, thrilled to see him claim the top prize as he knew what it meant to the jockey.
“Afterwards it was like a weight was off his shoulders. He was so focused on getting that win, and all he wanted was a Melbourne Cup. He was ecstatic.”
FOR LOST RIDING EQUIPMENT, Contact Patrick through our website – Craig’s team (Scroll to bottom of page)
Article – VRC