Racing: Play buoys up Williams

Welsh hill farmer has plans to take on Kauto Star in Cheltenham Gold Cup

The emergence of a talent that is diamond-bright is something that is always pretty to watch and must be even better to experience. And Evan Williams, in only his fourth season with a training licence, was perfectly sensible of the seminality of the moment here yesterday when his charge State Of Play crossed the line in the Hennessy Gold Cup.

The 50th edition of one of the jump season's milestones, and its £85,530 first prize, was the most significant win of the Welshman's swiftly burgeoning career. To win it with a seasonal debutant, recruited cheaply from another yard last year and improved out of all recognition, smacks of the real deal.

"I knew the horse was ready," Williams said. "His preparation had gone perfectly and when the rain came I became so confident I frightened myself. A lot of people said we were mad to pitch him in to this company, but in any sport you've got to step up to the mark when the pressure's on. We've done it today, and got the result. Not bad for a mad Welsh farmer."

Paul Moloney, in the saddle, always had 10-1 shot State Of Play close to the pace, sent him past trailblazing Preacher Boy in the air three out and went for home. The little brown gelding looked a class act as he responded, clearing away with a will. Juveigneur ( 12-1) came from off the pace to chase him home, four lengths adrift, with Preacher Boy (12-1) plugging on for third in front of Omni Cosmo Touch (28-1).

Behind them, in a war of attrition on rain-sodden ground, only four others of the 16 starters finished. The 9-2 favourite Montgermont came in seventh and second market choice Turpin Green pulled up with a circuit to run.

For Moloney, too, it was an occasion to savour; two years ago the 27-year-old Irishman, who once rode Moscow Flyer to victory, broke a leg and had to start more or less from scratch. "This is not a massive, scopey horse," he said, "but he is a great jumper, so athletic. He was at the exact beat at every fence, and I was exactly where I wanted to be the whole way. I'd looked at videos of past races and I thought the thing to do was to save a bit round the top turn and then kick from three out, which is what I did."

The progress of Williams, 35, who has 300 acres on top of a hill near Llancarfan, in Glamorgan, started with the foot-and-mouth outbreak five years ago. But that the epidemic that devastated the farming industry was, in his case, not an ill wind, was not immediately apparent.

"I had a herd of fat cattle I couldn't move," he said. "I sold up and put the money into 18 young Irish horses. In 2001 I was staring down the barrel of a gun, in 2002 I was champion point-to-point trainer and jockey." Williams now has 82 horses under his care, and his talent and march up the ranks has attracted the notice of new patrons of the weight of Sir Robert Ogden and Paul Green. It has also drawn pejorative comment, of the type endured by Martin Pipe in his early days, and studiously ignored.

"Training isn't about tittle-tattle and the wining and dining circuit," said Williams. "It's not even about facilities; we haven't got state-of-the art all-weather gallops, just plenty of green fields. It's about hard work and having the right horses. And wanting it, and my team at home want it almost more than I do. And at the moment it's very much us against the rest of the world."

Williams found State Of Play, who carries the colours of William Rucker, at the Doncaster sales in August last year, bought him for 18,000 guineas and proceeded to win three of four novice chases. "He's mentally strong," he said, "but he's only six and will need luck. But if the man upstairs is on our side, I hope he'll be good enough to give Mr Nicholls' great white hope (Kauto Star) a scare up the Cheltenham hill in March."

It has almost reached the stage now where "Paul Nicholls and Ruby Walsh do not have multiple winners on a Saturday" equates with "Man bites dog". The pair duly obliged yesterday with the first three here - Silverburn, Opera Mundi and Santsaire - and the trainer later added Neptune Collonges in the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle.

The most significant contest at High Gosforth, though, was the "Fighting Fifth" Hurdle, in which the Nick Gifford-trained Straw Bear, one of last season's best novices, announced his arrival in the senior league with a hugely impressive, consummately easy five-length success under Tony McCoy. A £1m bonus awaits should Straw Bear add the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton and then the Festival crown.


Best shortshot
After running green, Forest Pennant (Newbury, 3.45) finished best of all in a hot bumper last month and will now know his job.

Best longshot
Longshanks (Newbury, 2.40) is a sound jumper, stays well and though absent since January has gone well fresh in the past.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete tomorrow
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
peopleBroadcaster has a new role bringing 'the big stories that matter' to US
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
Life and Style
Moves to regulate e-cigarettes and similar products as medicines come amid increasing evidence of their effectiveness
healthHuge anti-smoking campaign kicks off on Wednesday
Life and Style
fashionEveryone, apparently
The erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has already been blamed for a rise in the number of callouts to the fire brigade for people trapped in handcuffs
voicesJustine Elyot: Since Fifty Shades there's no need to be secretive about it — everyone's at it
Arts and Entertainment
A new Banksy entitled 'Art Buff' has appeared in Folkestone, Kent
Arts and Entertainment
Shia LaBeouf is one of Brad Pitt's favourite actors in the world ever, apparently
filmsAn 'eccentric' choice, certainly
Life and Style
An Internet security expert has warned that voice recognition technology needs to be more secure
techExperts warn hackers could control our homes or spend our money simply by speaking
peopleBenjamin Netanyahu trolled by group promoting two-state solution
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

1st Line Service Desk Analyst

£27000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client who are...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Computer Futures

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Computer Futures are currently...

Recruitment Consultant - Bristol - Computer Futures - £18-25k

£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Computer Futures are currently...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style