Tag Archive for: Christian Williams

Nicholls needs Threeunderthrufive to tee-up late charge

Threeunderthrufive leads Paul Nicholls’ three-pronged assault on Saturday’s bet365 Gold Cup, with the Ditcheat handler admitting he needs a “massive day” as he bids to retain his British trainers’ title.

Nicholls has topped the table 14 times in the last 18 years, with six-times champion Nicky Henderson the only man to deny him victory during that period.

However, he will head into the final day of the current campaign only third in the race, having first been passed by his protege Dan Skelton following his Cheltenham Festival four-timer before Willie Mullins blew both out of the water by claiming Grand National glory at Aintree with I Am Maximus.

A subsequent Ayr four-timer, including the Scottish Grand National success of Macdermott, strengthened Mullins’ position in the lead and Nicholls feels he needs a minor miracle to overhaul the all-conquering Irishman on the final afternoon of the season.

Paul Nicholls receives the champion trainer trophy at Sandown last year
Paul Nicholls receives the champion trainer trophy at Sandown last year (David Davies/The Jockey Club)

“We’re up against it a little bit but we have some nice chances on Saturday, the horses are running well and we had three winners on Wednesday. We’re going to keep chipping away,” said Nicholls.

“Realistically, I think the only chance I’ve got is trying to beat Dan into second place, but you never know. Willie has got plenty of good horses to run and so have we, but I do think we’re up against it a little bit and we’re going to need a massive day.”

Given he is not represented in the other £170,000 feature on Saturday’s card, the Celebration Chase, winning the bet365 Gold Cup is likely to be Nicholls’ only hope of performing a last-gasp comeback.

Threeunderthrufive appears the stable’s number one hope, having been kept fresh since landing a lucrative prize at Ascot in February.

Nicholls added: “There’s a bit of rain forecast and I just hope with the watering, it doesn’t end up going against him, as he loves good ground.

“He’s in good shape, he’s very fresh and loves going right-handed. He has to carry 12st, but he won with 12st the last day.

“It’s not the hottest bet365 Gold Cup. They all take a lot of winning, but there’s no Gold Cup horses in there, it’s just a good handicap and that’s what he is good at.

“I would like to think he has a big chance.”

The nine-year-old will be ridden by Harry Cobden on the day he is set to be crowned champion jockey and he too fancies his chances.

Threeunderthrufive at Cheltenham
Threeunderthrufive at Cheltenham (Tim Goode/PA)

He said: “I think he has a really good chance. He will like the ground, I think he will stay and the trip won’t be a problem.

“He’s fresh and well, Paul has trained him for the race and I think it was a career best at Ascot last time, he’s going the right way.”

Nicholls is also represented by Enrilo, who passed the post in front in the 2021 bet365 Gold Cup before later being demoted to third due to causing interference, as well as Flash Collonges.

“Enrilo was an unlucky loser three years ago, he’s been running OK but needs to step up his game, while Flash Collonges has been a total disaster all season, with the ground being soft,” said the trainer.

“I don’t want to see any rain for him and he’s got blinkers on for the first time to sharpen him up, but he needs to improve on what he’s done so far this season.”

Nick Rockett in winning action at Navan
Nick Rockett in winning action at Navan (Damien Eagers/PA)

Mullins is also triple-handed, with Paul Townend siding with Nick Rockett over stablemates Minella Cocooner (Danny Mullins) and Aime Desjy (Sean O’Keeffe).

Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, said: “I’d say it was a tough decision for Paul, there’s not a lot between Nick Rockett and Minella Cocooner if you look at their profiles.

“I think the nicer ground and maybe the softer fences will be a help to Nick Rockett, he’s not an overly big horse and hopefully that should help him improve on his Irish National run (finished seventh).

“Minella Cocooner ran an absolute cracker in the Irish National (finished third) and the trip will suit him and the ground is fine for him as well.

“Aime Desjy ran a cracker over the National fences in the Topham Chase at Aintree a couple of weeks ago and the step up in trip should suit him well. He’s got a lovely weight (10st 13lb) and he’d have to be a lively outsider.”

The likely favourite is Christian Williams’ popular defending champion Kitty’s Light, who is sent back into action just two weeks after a fantastic effort when fifth in the National at Aintree.

“He seems in good order, obviously another fortnight would have been nice. He did it off the back of a week last year, having won the Scottish National the week before, but I think he was probably well handicapped last year and he’s 5lb higher in the weights now,” said Williams.

“He obviously runs well in the race and it’s the last big race of the year. He’s run in it the last three years and seems to like the place, it’s a bit of a specialist race, so we were always going to try to go for it unless we had a major reason not to.

“He takes his races well usually and seems in good heart. It’s a hard race to win but we’ll be trying our best.”

Skelton relies upon the 2022 Coral Gold Cup winner Le Milos, who has disappointed since running in last year’s Grand National, while other contenders include Henry de Bromhead’s Amirite and Sam England’s stable star Kinondo Kwetu.

Light seeking to shine again at Sandown

Kitty’s Light is taking aim at his usual season finisher in the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown.

The gelding has been a star for trainer Christian Williams, winning big handicap events like the Eider Chase and the Scottish Grand National and going close in the Charlie Hall and the Coral Trophy.

He has particularly good record in the bet365 Gold Cup on the final day of the season, missing out only due to interference when second in 2021 and coming home third in 2022.

Last year he was completed the set of podium finishes when winning by two and a half lengths under usual jockey Jack Tudor.

The two are well acquainted and teamed up for Kitty’s Light’s Grand National bid at Aintree earlier in the month, where he ran a valiant race to finish fifth behind four Grade-One winning Irish chasers.

Williams was incredibly proud of his stable star and is now hoping the gelding can shine again in the Sandown contest he has found to be lucrative in the past.

“It was wonderful, we trained him to win the race and we thought he could, but you couldn’t be disappointed with what he did,” Williams said of the National performance.

“We were thrilled, the horse tried his best and we were very, very proud of horse and jockey.

“He’s come out of it very well, if the race was run today even then he’d be running, he’s in good form.

“He loves it at Sandown with the big fences, his jumping has come on now but even as a five-year-old he nearly won the race.

“He was third the year after that, it really seems to suit him.

“I think he likes going right-handed, he hangs a little bit right at home and he seems to really enjoy it there.

“We’re taking our chance anyway, he seems well and we’ll hope for the best.”

Light bidding to further staying heroics this season

Kitty’s Light, who enjoyed an incredible end to last season when winning the Eider, Scottish Grand National and Bet365 Gold Cup is likely to have a spin over hurdles before his first major target – the Coral Gold Cup at Newbury on December 2.

Trained expertly by Christian Williams, he pulled off a unique feat last term in winning three of the most prestigious staying handicaps.

Now rated 147, Williams has the Randox Grand National has his big aim this spring.

“He’s in good form and I might give him a run over hurdles before Newbury because he thrived on his racing last year,” said Williams.

Christian Williams and jockey Jack Tudor after Kitty's Light won the Bet365 Gold Cup
Christian Williams and jockey Jack Tudor after Kitty’s Light won the Bet365 Gold Cup (David Davies/PA)

“Hopefully we’ll then take him to Newbury for the gallops morning about a week before and the plan then will be all systems go for the Coral Gold Cup, we like to have runners in these prestigious races.

“He had a spin in a charity race at Chepstow recently and while I wouldn’t take much notice of that, it was great to see him on the racecourse.

“A lot of his season is geared around the Grand National but his other big aim is Newbury to try to win that. He’s 147 now so he should be in the top 34 for the National, he’d be very unlucky if he missed out. He will probably stay over hurdles apart from the Coral Gold Cup, though.”

The sponsors make Jonjo O’Neill’s Monbeg Genius their 6-1 favourite followed by Dan Skelton’s Midnight River after the initial entry stage.

Lucinda Russell has entered her two stable stars Corach Rambler and Ahoy Senor, while Gold Cup runner-up Bravemansgame has also been given the option by Paul Nicholls.

Kitty’s Light shines in brilliant Sandown gold run

Hugely popular staying chaser Kitty’s Light shone once again in taking bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown.

Just seven days after landing the Scottish Grand National, the Christian Williams-trained seven-year-old, who was third to the well-handicapped Hewick in last year’s renewal and was unfortunate the year before that, went one better after a protracted battle with Moroder.

In a deep renewal of the extended three-and-a-half-mile handicap, former King George VI Chase winner Frodon made much of the running, with Moroder upsides five out.

But Bryony Frost’s mount, shouldering top weight, was under pressure at the Pond Fence three out and as the 11-year-old back-peddled, Kitty’s Light was making stealthy headway under Jack Tudor.

There were plenty still in with a chance two out, but the 11-4 favourite, who was carrying just 10st 8lb having escaped a penalty for last week’s success at Ayr, powered up the hill and after jumping upsides at the final fence, strode out smartly to score by two and a half lengths from Moroder.

Revels Hill travelled smoothly only to be outgunned when it mattered and finished a further five and a half lengths down in third, with The Goffer making up ground to take fourth.

Having previously won the Eider at Newcastle, Kitty’s Light completed a hat-trick and became the only the second horse after Hot Weld in 2007 to successfully complete the Scottish National and bet365 Gold Cup Double.

Betfair introduced Kitty’s Light into their 2024 Grand National betting, making him a 40-1 shot for Aintree glory.

Williams said: “Coming into today there were lots of negatives and we put ourselves under pressure running him again just a week later, but we’ve had the horse since he was a yearling and Jack knows him well. We know that when we give him a chance he will do something special.

“His constitution is unbelievable and at this time of year he comes into himself. It’s hard to get him right for 12 months of the year and it’s hard to get these horses right and they tend to just tend to come into themselves.

“When we won last year’s Scottish National with Win My Wings, I trained him for five years and I don’t know where that performance came from and it’s the same here today.

“We train him nice and quietly at home and he doesn’t get knocked about when he runs and Jack was nice and kind on him in the Scottish National.

“He didn’t pull him out (to challenge) until the second last and we had the cheekpieces in the wardrobe for when we needed them.

“There was no plan, he just came out of the race so well. We just felt that he’s a special horse and we wanted to give him the opportunity to do something that not many horses have done.”

Williams was emotional in the aftermath of Ayr, following news his five-year-old daughter Betsy has been diagnosed with leukaemia.

Christian Williams and Jack Tudor after winning the bet365 Gold Cup
Christian Williams and Jack Tudor after winning the bet365 Gold Cup (David Davies for the Jockey Club)

He went on: “Ayr was great last week, we were under pressure there as we’d had such a tough few weeks with Betsy and when we got up there the story was all about Betsy. All the emotions came out when he won whereas today all the focus was just on the result.

“We showed our emotion at Ayr, but today was purely a bonus and it was because he’d come out of the race so well and we wanted to give him the chance to do something special.

“Poor Tilly my older daughter doesn’t get a mention! Hayley Moore ran the London Marathon for Cancer Research and Betsy last week and she messaged me to say she was doing it. She brought me the medal half an hour before the race so I’ve had it on since and it’s just great.

“We’ve got tough times ahead but we’re lucky to be involved in this sport and to see the joy it brings with Betsy, Charlotte (wife) and all the family at home is just a big lift. It’s all down to this horse. People talk about the jockey and the trainer, but the horse is the one who gives us these days and gives us so much joy.”

Tudor said: “He’s a freak, an absolute freak. It’s the only way to describe him. I was worried about the ground when I walked the track as it was sticky as it’s hard enough on that ground and it felt like it.

“With running last week he’s had a hard week and a lot of travelling, but it was a great shout by the owners and Chris to run him. We thought all the facts were there and the boxes ticked to run him and that’s why we ran.

“He’s unbelievable, he’s done some amount (of good) for both mine and Christian’s careers. Everything that Chris and his family are going through is terrible but this horse has done so much to lift them, I spoke to Charlotte and she said that Betsy thinks she’s famous!

“It’s brilliant and I know they’re getting a massive lift from this, it’s bound to be helping.”

Kitty’s Light could be fantastic again for Williams at Sandown

Scottish Grand National hero Kitty’s Light bids for a rare double in the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown on Saturday.

The seven-year-old is turning out just seven days after providing trainer Christian Williams with back-to-back victories in Scotland’s most prestigious jumps race, with the Ferdy Murphy-trained Hot Weld the last horse to win both races in the same season back in 2007.

Williams was dealt a devastating blow recently when his five-year-old daughter Betsy was diagnosed with leukaemia, and the Welsh handler was unsurprisingly emotional in the Ayr winner’s enclosure following Kitty’s Light’s deserved big-race success north of the border.

“It was a wonderful day. It’s been a tough few weeks for my family and friends, Kitty’s Light has been a flagship horse for the last few years and going into the race winning Scottish National would have been a massive boost, so it was very emotional for everyone,” he said.

“We’re just lucky enough to be involved in the sport and see the joy that horses can bring. This was just one situation there at the weekend, what the horse did to pick everyone up, and it’s all down to Kitty’s Light. It was a wonderful, emotional day.”

Kitty’s Light has been a fantastic servant to his connections, placing in numerous big races prior to this season, including in the last two renewals of the bet365 Gold Cup.

He snapped a near two-year losing streak in the Eider Chase at Newcastle in February and having chased home stablemate Win My Wings in the Scottish National last April, went one better with a typically game performance under his regular partner Jack Tudor.

Jockey Jack Tudor (left) and trainer Christian Williams celebrate after Kitty’s Light's Ayr triumph
Jockey Jack Tudor (left) and trainer Christian Williams celebrate after Kitty’s Light’s Ayr triumph (Jane Barlow/PA)

Williams admits only time will tell if those exertions will take their toll just a week later, but is happy to the roll the dice with a horse who is somewhat out of the ordinary.

He added: “The horse seems very well and came out of the race very well. You never really know until you run, but Jack is riding him and he knows the horse better than anyone – he’s in the right hands.

“He loves this type of ground and loves this time of year. We haven’t ridden him out much this week, but we let him out in the field on Sunday and he galloped off like a lunatic.

“It’s obviously brave running him, but we’ve had the horse since he was a yearling and he is a freak really. If you saw him he’d be the last horse you’d pick out for a four-mile chase, but he defies all that.

“The way he comes out of a race is freakish – you could nearly run him in the next race. I don’t know if he’s got big lungs or a big heart, but he’s different to any other horse we’ve run.”

Williams feels Kitty’s Light should already have a bet365 Gold Cup victory under his belt, having been narrowly denied after a controversial finish in 2021.

The Paul Nicholls-trained Enrilo passed the post in front, but having hung badly left in the closing stages, impeding Kitty’s Light in the process, he was demoted to third.

However, as Potterman split the pair in second, he was awarded the race, with Kitty’s Light promoted from third to second but again having to make do with minor honours.

“Paul Nicholls felt he should have won the race when the result was reversed and we felt we should have won the race,” said Williams.

“We think his name should be on that winner’s board, so hopefully we can get it up there on Saturday.”

Frodon and Bryony Frost will team up again at Sandown
Frodon and Bryony Frost will team up again at Sandown (Niall Carson/PA)

On the day he will be crowned champion trainer for a 14th time, Nicholls saddles three runners in his bid for a fourth bet365 Gold Cup success, with popular top-weight Frodon joined by Enrilo and Broken Halo.

“Broken Halo has won the Grand Military and Royal Artillery in his last two starts but this is altogether a tougher race. He’s not without an outside chance, but I think the other two – Frodon and Enrilo – have a real chance,” explained Nicholls.

“Frodon ran very well the last day in a handicap at Kempton. He was flat out all the way then stayed on strongly up the straight and I just thought this would be a lovely race for him. I’m sure he will run well and he likes Sandown.

“The distance is unknown territory but he got three-and-a-quarter in the Badger Ales staying on strongly. Sandown is the sort of track you can freewheel from the top of the hill down and round the back and I think he will get a trip – I think he’s wanting it now.

“Enrilo won the race two years ago but got demoted. He’s been a tad disappointing since, but he has dropped to a nice mark and I would say this is as good form as we have had him in for a long time.”

Other leading contenders include Harry Fry’s Revels Hill, Ben Pauling’s recent course scorer Mucho Mas and the Evan Williams-trained Annsam, who has previously won at Kempton and Ludlow this season.

“It’s a big step up in trip, a very competitive race and there’s a few horses who are very well-in at the weights,” said Williams.

“I think Ludlow was important for us really. Obviously we went up in the weights, but that is almost an irrelevance as it was important to ride him in a different way and it worked out well.

“I was very keen to come and have a go at Saturday. At the end of the day this was a plan and getting there after a good prep is the main thing.”

Monday Musings: Déjà vu

There is no question that one male and one female jockey transcend all others in the perception of people who may not be regular followers of our wonderful, but undeniably niche, sport. ITV are valiantly and very professionally increasing coverage on the main free channels it controls and nowadays have great flexibility on which platform they use. Tough if you can only receive ITV1, but even you would have seen both those famous people in action on Saturday.

More accurately, the gentleman, Frankie Dettori, was in frequent, albeit unrewarding sight at Newbury. Rachael Blackmore, his female counterpart, Darling of Cheltenham, and Aintree, was on a first visit to Ayr along with her boss Henry de Bromhead.

She was there to ride another of Scotsman Kenny Alexander’s horses, in the same colours as the great Honeysuckle. At a Cheltenham meeting full of epic events, that superstar’s final act on a racecourse in winning the mares’ race at the Festival last month, following two Champion Hurdles, was the highlight of the week for many.

With the TV cameras and presenters watching every move on Saturday, Rachael successfully negotiated one fence on her mount Telmesomethinggirl, before being dumped unceremoniously when unseated at the next.

Being deposited on the turf – and Ayr’s was less than ideally receptive as the host of absentees from its £120k to the winner Scottish Grand National, testified – must have been a jolt.

Hopefully, she will be fit for one of her’s and de Bromhead’s most important fixtures, the five days of Punchestown, starting tomorrow. As with Leopardstown at Christmas and the Dublin Racing Festival in February, there is massive prizemoney available, and she won’t want to be side-lined for any of it.

Meanwhile Dettori had already bitten the turf 20 minutes earlier. The 52-year-old is, as everyone knows, in his final year as a jockey and he will be hoping to cherry-pick the best of opportunities all around the world right up until his final day.

He has a regular spot in California whenever he chooses to take it for Bob Baffert. This will always almost guarantee a top prospect or two for his final Breeders’ Cup in the autumn. Meanwhile he would dearly love another UK Classic winner or two to go with the 20 he already possesses as he stretches deeper into his sixth decade.

Hopes were high that Chaldean, the Andrew Balding-trained Juddmonte-owned colt he rode to victory in last year’s Dewhurst Stakes, would sort out the first of those five possible additions. Despite being slightly uneasy in the betting as the horses milled around behind Newbury’s stalls before the off, nobody could have anticipated the shocking outcome soon to occur.

The gates opened and Chaldean obviously made a troubled exit, as Dettori was dumped even before his mount could take a step, his horse suffering both from a violent left-handed swerve by the horse in the neighbouring stall to this right and the fact there was no horse to his left to help correct the unwelcome deviation due to two blocks of stalls connecting at that point. Chaldean decided, jockey or no jockey, to show these upstart horses what’s what and joined in the race all by himself. Meanwhile the Italian was slowly picking himself up in a state of disbelief. Unlike in almost every other sport, when something like that happens, that’s it – no comeback.

One man’s dismay can usually mean joy for somebody else and that was the case for Brian Meehan, once a regular challenger for Group and Grade 1 prizes around the world, but now operating on a smaller scale. The numbers might be down, but the talent and awareness of the ability of the horses he does control is firmly intact.

When discussing the race with me on Saturday morning, he acknowledged that Chaldean might be the superstar of the 2023 Classics, so his horse Isaac Shelby would not be taking any notice, he’d just be doing his own thing. Isaac Shelby broke nicely from his low draw at the left-hand side well away from the favourite. Sean Levey soon had him ahead and must have thought he was seeing things as the riderless Chaldean came into his vision off to the right.

In fairness, Chaldean would have been the only other horse he did see, as the Meehan colt settled into his stride and, when anything looked like getting on terms, he kept pulling out extra. At the line, he had three lengths and five and a half lengths in hand of Roger Varian’s colt Charyn and the Gosdens’ Theoryofeverything. If anything from the race is going to win the 2,000 Guineas, it is surely only Chaldean.

This is in large part because Meehan and close collaborator Sam Sangster, who bought the Night Of Thunder colt for £92,000 as a yearling, have not swayed from the original plan to go for the French 2,000 Guineas over a mile at Longchamp, rather than Newmarket on Saturday week with Isaac Shelby.

Time enthusiasts will have noted the Greenham was run in two seconds’ faster time than the immediately preceding Fred Darling (or whatever it’s called nowadays), for Classically-intending fillies. Its significance may be diminished, as that was the exact difference in the two races’ times last year.

Isaac Shelby won his first two races as a juvenile, a maiden at Newbury (good to soft) and then the Group 3 Superlative Stakes at Newmarket on good to firm ground. The going was nearer the opposite end of the spectrum on Saturday, riding at around one second per furlong slow. Saturday’s winner took seven seconds longer than Perfect Power did for the Richard Fahey stable in 2022, so probably not too dissimilar a performance.

Isaac Shelby’s only career defeat came after a slow start and a wide course in the Dewhurst at a time when getting into the middle of the track was very unrewarding. Brian just shrugs that off. It wasn’t his day, is the gist of it. Saturday certainly was!

Perfect Power failed to stay the mile in the 2,000 Guineas but went to Royal Ascot, where he comfortably won the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup over six furlongs. Perfect Power retired at the end of the season and stands this year at a fee of £15,000 at Sheikh Mohammed’s Dalham Hall Stud.

Despite a quiet (for them) Dubai World Cup meeting, there is little sign that Godolphin are any less acquisitive when seeking out talented horses at sales, in addition to their extensive and increasingly successful breeding operation. I finally received my Horses In Training Book (thank you Rupert!) this week and note that Charlie Appleby has 254 horses in his care this year.

He’ll have at least one more after last week’s Craven Breeze-Up sale at Newmarket, which I attended only on the first evening. Hence, I missed the sale of the Blue Point colt bought by Anthony Stroud and David Loder for a joint top-priced 625,000gns.

Blue Point, like Perfect Power, also stands at Dalham Hall, and he has gone off like a rocket with his initial lot of juveniles. Blue Storm won for the James Tate stable at Newmarket on Tuesday, making it three already in the UK. I understand he’s had a winner in France, too. [He has, Keran, trained by Jean-Claude Rouget for the Aga Khan, is Blue Point’s sole French runner so far, winning at Tarbes last Thursday – Ed.]

The other joint top was a son of Havana Grey, who on Wednesday was responsible for 28/1 winner Mammas Girl, also ridden by Sean Levey, this time for his long-standing boss Richard Hannon, in the Group 3 Nell Gwyn Stakes.

The Hannon stable has always been able to pull one out of the hat in Guineas races, both before Richard junior took over from his father and since. Don’t be shocked if this fast-improving filly – now as short as 6/1 – makes an impact in the Classic.

There have been some artistically planned big-race coups over jumps recently, but nobody seems as sure-footed as Christian Williams, who followed last year’s 1-2 in the Scottish Grand National with another well-executed win in the four-miler on Saturday.

In 2022, his mare Win My Wings led home a stable 1-2, the 13/2 joint-favourite sharing that price with Williams’ other runner, Kitty’s Light, a staying-on second. Win My Wings was retired earlier this season, but Kitty’s Light, having dropped in the handicap, easily won the Eider Chase at Newcastle last time.

Even after being reassessed for that, Kitty’s Light was able to run off 3lb lower than a year ago, and now as the 4/1 favourite he had the typical Christian Williams acceleration at the end of marathon distances. As with Win My Wings last year, his horse seemed to be going nowhere and then shot past the rest of the field to win easily. It was very much a case of Déjà vu.

Watching Robert Sangster’s colours come home in front on Isaac Shelby, it was so good to have a reminder of the long-term owner of Manton. His son Sam, through his Manton House Thoroughbreds syndicates, is keeping the tradition going with Meehan, while Sam’s nephew Ollie, son of elder brother Ben and wife Lucy, is embarking with great promise on a training career there. Déjà vu indeed.

- TS

Kitty’s Light gives Christian Williams an emotional victory in the Scottish National

Wales beat Scotland in the Coral Scottish Grand National with last year’s runner-up Kitty’s Light getting the better of Cooper’s Cross in a thrilling encounter.

Beaten by stablemate Win My Wings in the Ayr showpiece 12 months ago, the Christian Williams-trained chaser is still only seven yet has been running in these big handicaps for the past three years.

Raised 8lb for his win in the Eider Chase at Newcastle in February, Kitty’s Light was ridden by Jack Tudor, who recently took the job as stable jockey for David Pipe.

It was with Williams with whom he started his career, though, and in the aftermath it was clear just what the result meant to the pair of them.

Dropped out, Kitty’s Light’s jumping was much better on this occasion, at least until he got to the final fence at which he went right through the top.

But that did not stop his momentum too much, and as Stuart Coltherd’s Cooper’s Cross tried with all his might to keep the prize at home, Kitty’s Light (4-1 joint-favourite) stayed on strongly to score by three lengths. Flash De Touzaine was third with Threeunderthrufive fourth.

Williams has had his world turned upside down recently with the news his five-year-old daughter Betsy has been diagnosed with leukaemia, and was emotional in the aftermath.

He said: “It’s brilliant. He’s a very important horse. We’ve a big battle on at home with my daughter, but this is great and will cheer everyone up.

“I’m lucky to have the staff I’ve got, and the family. It’s a great tonic to the children watching at home and I’m looking forward to getting back tonight and seeing them all.”

Tudor told ITV Racing: “He’s a legend. He’s small and he’s not a brilliant jumper and he’s been trained to the absolute minute.

“This is brilliant for Christian, his little daughter is really unwell so it’s a massive lift for him more than anyone, the whole family, Charlotte (Williams’ wife), it means a lot this one so well done to everyone at the yard. People won’t know what this will mean to Christian.

“If Betsy can be as tough as Kitty’s Light she’ll be fine.”

Expanding on the performance of his winner, Williams told Racing TV: “He bumped into a horse last year that looked unstoppable, nothing could have beaten her (Win My Wings) that day.

“With Kitty we had a plan to go Eider Chase and then this. He was a bit slow to come to hand earlier in the season, but he did a piece of work 10 days ago that Jack said we hadn’t seen the likes of for 12 months.

“We came here fairly confident, but we knew we’d need luck in running because he’s only small.

Jack Tudor and Christian Williams
Jack Tudor and Christian Williams (Jane Barlow/PA)

“It just goes to show the luck you need, he’s Flat-bred yet he’s running in four-mile chases. Fences probably get in his way. They aren’t too big here and he just seems to come to himself at this time of year.

“The only thing about last year is Jack wasn’t on the winner so I didn’t quite get the same kick out of it. To win it on Kitty’s this year is great.

“We won’t write Sandown (bet365 Gold Cup) off just yet because he can have a nice long break after that.”

Prior to the start, protesters from Animal Rising attempted to disrupt proceedings, but they were quickly dealt with by police and officials and there was no repeat of the delay at Aintree, with the race going off just a couple of minutes late.

Kitty’s Light fantastic for Williams in Eider Chase

Kitty’s Light secured the big-race victory he has long promised with a determined display in the Vertem Eider Handicap Chase at Newcastle.

The Christian Williams-trained seven-year-old was unfortunate not to land the 2021 bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown after controversial finish and he has since been placed in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby, the Coral Trophy at Kempton, the Scottish Grand National at Ayr and the bet365 Gold Cup for a second time.

Having fallen down the weights following a disappointing run of form so far this season, Kitty’s Light was the 7-4 favourite to bounce back at Gosforth Park – but his supporters were made to sweat before eventually collecting their winnings.

Jockey Jack Tudor was hard at work in the saddle at various stages of the four-one-mile-furlong contest, while Kitty’s Light was far from convincing at a number of fences on the way round.

But to his credit, the Nathaniel gelding managed to keep himself in contention and his huge reserves of stamina kicked in from the home turn and he kept on dourly from the final fence to get up and beat The Galloping Bear by two and a half lengths.

Williams, claiming back-to-back Eider wins following the comfortable success of Win My Wings 12 months ago, said: “I’m delighted. It was a great ride for good owners. The ground was a bit messy and he made hard work of it, but we’ve got plenty of faith in him and you can never write him off.

“He does his best work in the latter stages of a race. He’s got a Flat pedigree and is not bred to be jumping fences and running over four miles!

“He’s a brilliant little horse. All the stats said he couldn’t win with his age and this and that, but he’s a freak so I didn’t take much notice.

“We know how hard it is to win that type of race. We won it with Win My Wings last year, who probably had 20-odd pounds in hand. We thought we had Kitty’s Light mapped out for it, but you don’t just go up there and win that type of race, so I’m proud of the horse and Jack everyone who travelled up there.”

Christian Williams was thrilled with the victory of Kitty's Light at Newcastle
Christian Williams was thrilled with the victory of Kitty’s Light at Newcastle (Simon Marper/PA)

Kitty’s Light was cut to 5-1 from 10-1 for the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter on March 18, but appears unlikely to take his chance.

“I think we’ve got two options now, the Scottish National and the bet365 Gold Cup. We’ll have a sit down and speak to the owners and see which race will suit him,” Williams added.

“He ran in both races last year, but this year they’re only a week apart so I think we will target one or the other.

“We left him in the Midlands National at the first stage as we were worried about the ground at Newcastle, but I would have thought he’ll be taken out of that now.”

Williams waits on Kempton call for Cap Du Nord

Christian Williams will make a late call on whether to allow Cap Du Nord to make a swift return to action and bid for back-to-back victories in the Coral Trophy at Kempton on Saturday.

The 10-year-old was a clear-cut winner of the prestigious handicap 12 months ago and struck gold for the first time since in last weekend’s LK Bennett Swinley Handicap Chase at Ascot.

Cap Du Nord would carry a 5lb penalty for that win if he were to turn out just seven days later and Williams admits the £150,000 prize is tempting.

He said: “We’ll probably make a final decision on Thursday morning, but he came out of Ascot in great form, so we’ll see.

“We could wait for the Scottish National, but it’s a very valuable race on Saturday, there might not be a whole lot of runners and we feel it’s a track that suits him very well and the ground will suit him.

“We’d like to see how the race cuts up before we decide whether to take a chance or not.”

Kitty’s Light made it a one-two for Williams when chasing home Cap Du Nord in last year’s Coral Trophy, before finding only another stablemate too strong in the Scottish Grand National in Win My Wings.

Kitty’s Light is 8lb lower in the weights than this time last year following an underwhelming season thus far and while he also has the option of running at Kempton again, Williams is currently favouring a trip to the north east.

Kitty's Light (right) in action at Sandown
Kitty’s Light (right) in action at Sandown (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“We’ll probably go to Newcastle for the Eider Chase with Kitty’s, as long as the ground doesn’t go too soft up there,” the Welsh trainer dded.

“If Frodon runs at Kempton it keeps us out of the weights a little bit, so I would have thought Kitty’s will go to Newcastle. If Frodon doesn’t run, then he’ll probably go to Kempton for the prize-money.

“He hasn’t won for two years and was struggling to win off those higher marks. The handicapper has given him a chance and the horse deserves to win a feature race, so let’s hope it’s on the weekend.”

Christian Williams looking to a familiar friend to kick-start 2023

Christian Williams is ready to ramp up the pace after a quiet start to 2023, and hopes staying chaser Kitty’s Light can take one of the big prizes over the coming months.

The Glamorgan handler may have lost last season’s Eider and Scottish National winner Win My Wings to injury and subsequent retirement, but in Kitty’s Light he has a horse who can help to fill the void.

The seven-year-old, who was runner-up to his stablemate at Ayr in April, will tread a familiar path, starting with Saturday’s three-mile Coral Racing Club Handicap Chase at Kempton, in which he was sent off favourite last year.

He was then placed in the Coral Trophy at Kempton, Scottish National and Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown.

“We’ve been a bit quiet, as the six-monthly flu jabs came in and knocked a few,” said Williams.

“We have Kitty’s Light on Saturday, then we have plenty to enter up.

“He seems well, obviously he wants a bit better ground, but it drains quick at Kempton.

“Kitty’s is rated 135 now. His last win was in March, two years ago, and he’s back to that (mark), so he’s got a chance, anyway.”

Though a consistent stayer, he will need to improve a few pounds to get into the Grand National at Aintree, and Williams added: “I wouldn’t have thought he was a National-type horse, but there are plenty of races outside of that.

“We’ll look at the Scottish National, the bet365 and the Coral Trophy again – they are valuable races.”

Last season’s Coral Trophy hero, Cap Du Nord, will head to Doncaster for his next start in a race where he is a standing dish.

“Cap Du Nord seems to click in at that time of year and he runs well in the Sky Bet Chase most years. He’s in that and he usually goes to the Coral Trophy  after that,” added the Ogmore-By-Sea handler.

Williams is also eyeing the valuable Cazoo Handicap Hurdle at Lingfield’s Winter Million meeting on Friday week for Warwick winner Lord Snootie.

The six-year-old benefited from a step up to three-and-a-quarter miles to win by four and a half lengths on New Year’s Eve.

Cap Du Nord has a Doncaster date
Cap Du Nord has a Doncaster date (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“Lord Snootie might go to Lingfield. There is a also big open race at Sandown the week after. He might need a bit of luck in getting in, but he might go for one of them,” added the trainer.

“It was a nice win at Warwick. It makes things a bit easier when you run in handicaps. He previously ran in a couple of Chepstow maidens which looked very strong.

“Ideally, the two-mile seven (furlong) race at Lingfield is where he will go, but that £100,000 handicap at Sandown a week after could be on the agenda. We’ll have a look.”

Monday Musings: The home defence prevails in Saudi

Two years ago the Saudi Cup was staged for the first time with a total prize fund of $20 million ($10 million to the winner) and therefore the richest single horse race anywhere in the world. There was little surprise when US-trained horses came out on top in the nine-furlong event on the dirt course close to Riyadh.

The winner that day was Maximum Security, the horse that had also finished first past the post in the 2019 Kentucky Derby.  Immediately after the Derby, Maximum Security was disqualified for causing interference on the final bend and was relegated to 17th of the 19 runners under the stringent US interference rules.

The horse’s owners, which include the Coolmore partners, must have been relieved that the Saudi Cup was at least a financial consolation for losing the Derby. Sensationally, though, within a few days of that inaugural running, news came that the colt’s trainer Jason Servis had been arrested. He is named as one of 27 individuals implicated in a US-wide horse doping conspiracy. Their inevitably complex trial is expected to begin next year.

The first actual recipient of the Saudi cash therefore – before Newcastle United and the golfers wanting to play in the Kingdom-inspired planned breakaway from the PGA tour – was Prince Abdul Rahman Abdullah Faisal. The Prince, usually referred to as Prince Faisal in the UK, with his Gosden-trained Mishriff, won the race last year. He, of course, is from the Saudi Royal family.

His horse was back again for the Cup’s third running on Saturday, but he finished last, virtually pulled up by David Egan. The home team this time enjoyed both sides of the triumph, not just a Saudi-owned (again a Prince from the ruling family) but also by dint of its Saudi trainer.

That horse was Emblem Road, a US-bred son of Quality Road, sourced as a two-year-old for around $80,000 at Ocala in Florida, and he came into Saturday’s race with six wins in eight starts, yet started 80-1 (or 50-1, depending on which report you believe).

The price was understandable as he faced the reigning Kentucky Derby winner Mandaloun, also unbeaten in three runs since that day before Saturday, as well as well-touted fellow Americans Country Grammer and Midnight Bourbon.

The former of that pair is trained by Bob Baffert, another high-profile US trainer several of whose best horses have been found to have had illegal substances in their post-race samples and who is soon to face an inquiry into one of those instances. Interestingly, it was to Baffert that Maximum Security was switched after the Jason Servis licence was suspended two years ago.

Hopes for Emblem Road were drastically reduced when the colt started very slowly but his 53-year-old rider Wigberto Ramos did not panic. A Panamanian who has been riding in Saudi Arabia for the past 24 years, “Wiggy” knows the track as well as any jockey and he steadily made up his ground.

There was still more to be retrieved as Country Grammer set off for home, offering Baffert high hopes of his cut of the $10 million; but Emblem Road, buoyed by his own extensive experience of his home track, would not be denied and got up close home to win by half a length.

The victory was a massive triumph for his local trainer Mitab Almulawah and it must be very possible that his smart and tough four-year-old might be deployed to Meydan to challenge for the Dubai World Cup, victory in which would propel him even higher up the world top earnings table.

I remember when I first started working back in 1990 with the late Prince Ahmed Salman and his Thoroughbred Corporation team which won so many major races around the world, asking whether the family was on a par with the Maktoum family.

The answer came from my pal Jack Rusbridge, the late Prince’s main security advisor, who replied: “No contest. The Saudis’ wealth is a bottomless pit!” Phil Mickelson and Eddie Howe are well aware of that, never mind Baffert who for all the disappointment of his near miss in the big race, collected his share of around $3.5 million for Country Grammer’s second and the victory of his 7-4 favourite Pinehurst in the Saudi Derby earlier on the card.

The rivalry between Dubai and Riyadh is such that the failure of any of the Godolphin ten to win a race would have been regarded as a triumph on the ground for the home team. Rather than any of the more anticipated centres of success, the remaining four races open to the invaders all went to that upwardly-mobile source of big-race excellence that is Japan.

Two wins on the second day of the Breeders’ Cup with Marche Lorraine – sixth to Emblem Road on Saturday – and Loves Only You, who went on to win the Longines Hong Kong Cup in December, jolted many of us to their ever-expanding horizons.

But this was something on an altogether different scale. All four were ridden by Christophe Lemaire who, in the manner of all true international jockeys of the highest order, instantly knew how to handle this track. Three turf races opened the feast, Lemaire making all in two with a come from behind run in between. Then later, in the Turf sprint, he was back in making-all vein, completing an astonishing four-timer for this powerful racing nation.

**

There was some decent jump racing back home at the weekend and it was good to see Milton Harris winning the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton with the now unbeaten-in-five over timber, Knight Salute, who needed to overcome a 5lb penalty for his earlier two Graded wins.

Expensive recruits from the flat were easily brushed aside and while it might have been tight if the Gary Moore-trained Teddy Blue had jumped the last two flights better, Knight Salute looks the main domestic hope for the Triumph Hurdle against the Mullins/Elliott platoon.

Staying chases were the other prime targets for owners and trainers, and both Newcastle’s Eider Chase and then Kempton’s Coral Handicap Chase were mopped up by the mop-haired (although he has trimmed it a shade!) Christian Williams.

Always a shrewdie in his riding days as a generally second-string jump jockey, he seems even more astute as a trainer. He says the plans for the multiple entries for these two valuable prizes were fixed months ago and they were rewarded when Win My Wings justified heavy support down to 11-2 favouritism at Newcastle. Cap Du Nord, 15 minutes later, with Williams – anxiously on course in the paddock at Sunbury - led home a stable one-two completed by Kitty’s Light.

The three Williams contributors collected almost £160,000. On what was the worst performance of his life Mandaloun “earned” £222,222 for finishing ninth in the world’s richest race.

For anyone waiting for news of Glen Again who now has been taken out twice so far when due to make his hurdles debut, I can tell you he has two possible entries later this week. Ian Williams has to choose between Ludlow on Thursday and Newbury the following day. At least the ground will not be heavy wherever he goes.

- TS