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.

BETS OF THE DAY

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.

Sport
There were mass celebrations across Argentina as the country's national team reached their first World Cup final for 24 years
transfersOne of the men to suffer cardiac arrest was 16 years old
Life and Style
life“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
beauty
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
transfers
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
news
Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows, Network Security)

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows...

Service Desk Analyst (Windows, Active Directory, ITIL, Reuter)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Windows, Active Dire...

PHP Web Developer (HTML5, CSS3, Jenkins, Vagrant, MySQL)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: PHP Web Develo...

Network Engineer (CCNA, CCNP, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

£40000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNA, CCNP, Linux, OSPF,...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice