Tag Archive for: Evan Williams

Supreme Escape is North Yorkshire National hero for Williams and Bowen

Evan Williams was thrilled to see Supreme Escape make the long journey from South Wales worthwhile by claiming top honours in the Vickers.Bet North Yorkshire Grand National.

With a prize fund of almost £31,000 up for grabs, the stamina-sapping contest is the most valuable race of the season at Catterick and racegoers were treated to a cracking renewal in the January sunshine.

Supreme Escape, trained 280 miles away in the Vale of Glamorgan, had been well-beaten in his last two starts, but there was clearly some confidence behind him as he was prominent in the market at 5-1.

Sporting a first-time visor under a cool ride from James Bowen, the Dai Walters-owned eight-year-old powered home from the final obstacle to get up and deny Almazhar Garde by three-quarters of a length.

Williams saddled Billy Bronco to finish second in the 2018 running of this three-mile-six-furlong contest – his only previous runner at Catterick in the last decade.

“It was a very cool ride. James gets on very well with the horse and the visor has been a help, because at times the horse wants to do things his way,” said Williams.

“It’s a race we’ve gone up to in the past and they do such a good job, we try to support all these type of Nationals

“He might get into the Midlands National. He’d stay that trip so I’d say we’ll take a punt on that.”

Trainer Evan Williams
Trainer Evan Williams (Simon Cooper/PA)

Bowen, a previous winner of the Welsh Grand National and Midlands Grand National, was pleased to add the North Yorkshire edition to his CV.

He said of Supreme Escape: “He’s a good candidate for these Nationals and I’m sure he’s got a few more in him.

“I was happy at the top of the straight but got in tight to two out, which probably worried me a little bit. But he’s really quick away from a fence and even when he’s not right, he grabs the bit and takes you to each fence, which always helps.

“Evan doesn’t tell you a lot. He just said ‘do what you want on him’. He’s very easy to ride for and it’s a pleasure to ride for him.”

Final reward for Prime Venture team

Prime Venture came from the rear of the field to win a stamina-sapping contest for the Unibet Veterans’ Handicap Chase Series Final at Sandown.

Adam Wedge delivered the Evan Williams-trained 11-year-old with a well-timed run to lead at the final fence and land the £51,000 first prize.

Valadom made a gallant attempt to lead all the way and was 15 lengths clear at one stage. However, he started to weaken rapidly after the third-last fence as the pack closed in.

Final Nudge, the 100-30 favourite, took it up but that proved short-lived as Prime Venture (18-1) loomed up menacingly before pulling away on the climb to the line after three miles and 22 fences.

The winning distance was nine lengths from Final Nudge, with Sir Ivan a further four lengths away third. Dashing Perk was fourth and Valadom last of the five finishers.

Williams said: “He doesn’t win many times, but he has run mighty races in Welsh Nationals and I was probably guilty of training him for Welsh Nationals all his life and perhaps the little horse didn’t get the opportunity to go and win as many races as perhaps he should have.

“But it all goes down to owners again. And Mr and Mrs Davies have had some lovely horses over the years and they just let you hatch a plan and I can’t over-emphasise as a trainer when you get a free rein some way down the line the owners will get rewarded.”

Williams also paid tribute to jockey Wedge, adding: “It’s great that Wedgey has got his day because as you all know he’s our man and it’s nice when you win.”

Wedge said: “It’s very, very hard work out there and Evan said to me to just go out there and ride him to a finish and nick a little bit and we nicked more than a little bit in the end.”

Talking about the owners, he said: “They’ve put a lot in since I’ve been with Evan they’ve been there and they’re buying young horses all the time and it’s good for them.

“It (veterans’ series) is fantastic. That lad’s been placed in a Welsh National a couple of times and you wouldn’t believe it’s only the second race he’s won over a fence, but he always wears his heart on his sleeve and tries every time.”

Evan Williams in no rush to map out Secret Reprieve plans

Evan Williams will give Secret Reprieve time to recover before making any plans after he was last of the five finishers in his defence of the Coral Welsh Grand National at Chepstow on Monday.

Williams felt Secret Reprieve badly needed the outing as the seven-year-old had not run since landing last season’s rearranged renewal in early January.

“He’s absolutely fine. He got very tired but everything is good,” said the Llancarfan trainer.

“I thought he ran like he desperately needed the run. I thought the trainer had left him looking rather well but he ran a very creditable race.

“We’ve got a run under our belts and I’d been so desperate to run him. It’s lovely when you get a run under their belts and we’ll see how he is in the next few weeks and go from there.”

Secret Reprieve just missed the cut for Randox Grand National last spring and he is likely to be given an entry though Williams feels, at this stage, he might miss out again.

“I’ll probably give him an entry in the Grand National. He’ll struggle to get into the National – he’ll get dropped for that – but he’s a long way short of the standard of getting into the race. We’ll play it by ear,” he added.

Secret Reprieve returns to Chepstow for Welsh National defence

Evan Williams’ Secret Reprieve will return to scene of his last success when he bids to defend his Coral Welsh Grand National title at Chepstow on Monday.

The seven-year-old has not run since winning the race in January, after waterlogging caused the postponement of the fixture from its usual post-Christmas slot.

In front of empty grandstands, Secret Reprieve justified his position as the 5-2 favourite as he overcame a broken breast-girth to stay on convincingly and record a three-length success in the hands of Adam Wedge.

Dry weather and unsuitably good ground have prevented Williams from running the bay since that success, but the trainer has form for producing a big run from a fresh horse as State Of Play won the Ladbrokes Trophy, then known as the Hennessy, on his first run of the campaign in 2006.

Williams with Secret Reprieve at Chepstow last season
Williams with Secret Reprieve at Chepstow last season (David Davies/PA)

“I would loved to have got a run under his belt, but I haven’t been able to do that because the ground has been far too dry for us. That’s the situation we’re in and everything else is fine,” Williams said on a press call hosted by Great British Racing.

“We were thinking about Cheltenham and then the Grand National, it looked like that job might happen and we missed the cut – the field was the only option then. He’s come in and he’s done his work all through the autumn. I would dearly have liked to have gone for a run somewhere but the weather was just against us.

“Some horses need the confidence of running in races and winning and that gets them there, other horses you can slot in because they are good enough to slot in and I think if you’re classy enough, then you will get away with it.

“State Of Play won a Hennessy without a run and I keep clinging on to that. That was a good while ago and we weren’t as well known then, but they said that was impossible and nothing, absolutely nothing, in horse racing is impossible.”

Wedge returning to the winners enclosure following his success
Wedge returning to the winners enclosure following his success (David Davies/PA)

Secret Reprieve runs off a mark of 140 this time around, some 6lb higher than in January, but the presence of 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Native River at the head of the field means Williams’ runner will still be lightly weighted.

“I think the best horse in the race is the top (weight) horse (Native River), it makes the race a very classy race because he is a very classy animal,” he said.

“He’s a Gold Cup winner and I think he has an outstanding chance.

“We will need a lot of things in our favour, but it’s the same with any three-mile-six-furlong handicap chase at the highest level and what we have to remember is that this is a much better race this year.”

Last season things did go in the gelding’s favour and Williams believes the stars aligned for his runner as a long-held ambition was realised in a race hugely significant to the Welshman and his family.

“It was a huge day, a day that I’d always wanted but was struggling to get, so when it came we were over the moon,” he said.

“There was a fair amount of relief more than anything, I think that’s the biggest emotion.

“On the run up to a big race when you know that you’ve got an outstanding chance if it all comes right, it’s the relief and pride that’s a huge part of it because it is a race that I’ve always wanted to win.

“I’ve always gone on record as saying that the race I most wanted to win in my life was the Welsh Grand National.

“All of my life I really never thought that we would be training the quality and the number of horses that we have developed to train. I never dreamt that would happen.

“No matter what we win in the future and what we’ve done in the past, it will always be the extra special bit in the corner of your heart that we won the Welsh National.”

Annsam lift for Evan Williams after Silver Streak heartbreak

Annsam provided the Evan Williams stable with a timely tonic when winning the Howden Silver Cup Handicap Chase at Ascot.

The Llancarfan yard endured a major blow when losing top-class hurdler Silver Streak to a fatal injury on Friday.

But a week on from the success of Coole Cody in the Racing Post Gold Cup at Cheltenham, Annsam (7-1) provided another notable success.

Adam Wedge always had the six-year-old in the front rank with Cloth Cap sharing the pacemaking duties.

Finding more as the field turned for home with two fences to jump, Annsam kept on resolutely to hold the challenge of Phoenix Way by four and a half lengths. Jerrysback stayed on for third place, five lengths away. Valtor was fourth.

Williams said: “We were only going on breeding and half hoping what he could do over this trip, and I have to admit I was a bit critical of the handicapper after his win at Ludlow last year because I thought we’d just tootled around in a small field race – but I have to admit, he was right.

Annsam was running in the colours of Wayne Clifford, the owner of Coole Cody.

Williams added: “Well this old game is a big old wheel and you have to hang on to that wheel until your turn comes. Mr. Clifford has been a big supporter of the game for a good number of years – he has kept hanging on to that wheel and it appears his time has come.”

Williams also reflected on the loss of the talented Silver Streak, who was being prepped for the defence of his Christmas Hurdle title at Kempton.

“Silver Streak was a very, very good friend to me and was a very good friend to Mrs Fell and an even bigger friend to all the boys and girls in the yard. I can’t begin to tell you how much he meant to us,” said Williams.

“The only way you can get on in this game is to keep looking forward. It doesn’t matter if it is today or racing as a whole. Racing has been through an awful lot over the last few weeks and months, so I suppose it is a new year and we can all look forward.”

Heartbreak for Evan Williams as Silver Streak suffers fatal injury

Evan Williams was dealt a blow on Friday with the death of his stable star Silver Streak.

The eight-year-old, who finally enjoyed his crowning glory when winning last year’s Christmas Hurdle at Kempton after a string of good efforts at the highest level, was being prepared to defend his title on Boxing Day.

He finished third in the 2019 Champion Hurdle to Espoir D’Allen and also won the Welsh Champion Hurdle in 2018, as well as finishing placed in numerous other big races.

Williams revealed the news on Twitter where he said: “Sad day Silver Streak suffered a fatal injury today thanks for the memories.”

Silver Streak ran 29 times over hurdles, winning eight and finishing second eight times also, earning almost £500,000 for his owner, Les Fell.

He was ridden in the majority of those by Adam Wedge who tweeted: “Thank you for some fantastic memories that I will never forget! RIP Big man #silverstreak #1inamillion.”

Silver Streak to bypass Ascot with Christmas Hurdle again on cards

Silver Streak will be given his chance to defend his Christmas Hurdle crown at Kempton after Evan Williams decided to bypass Saturday’s Betfair Exchange Hurdle at Ascot.

The Llancarfan trainer enjoyed the 2020 festive season more than most, with big-race success in both the Grade One hurdle at Kempton and in the Welsh National at Chepstow with Secret Reprieve.

Williams is hopeful that both his stable stars remain on course to defend their respective titles, but admitted both will take their engagements more in hope than expectation.

Silver Streak has failed to produce the form that saw him land the Christmas Hurdle in four subsequent starts, including when trailing eight lengths behind dead-heaters Not So Sleepy and Epatante in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle last month.

Williams said: “Silver Streak will go to the Christmas Hurdle. I scratched him from Saturday. He will go to Kempton Park on Boxing Day. I haven’t worked him but he will work this week, and the plan is for him to defend his crown.

“He jumped terribly at Newcastle. He jumped like his legs were tied together – his jumping, the last two runs, has been an issue and I can’t say I have found the reason why.

“I just think he is getting older and wiser, and the ground he has been running on, when it is on the soft side, it has become very difficult for him to operate.

“I don’t think that is an excuse for his jumping, he just hasn’t been on his A game this year at all.

“However, we are going back there, just because the track suits him and that is where he has shown his best form.

“It is nice that he can go back and defend his crown. Win, lose or draw, he does deserve that chance as the current holder.”

Secret Reprieve, who justified favouritism to take the extended three-and-three-quarter-mile Coral Welsh National under Adam Wedge last season, is 6-1 second favourite with the sponsors to follow up on December 27th – despite not having a run since.

Secret Reprieve will go to Chepstow without the benefit of a prep run
Secret Reprieve will go to Chepstow without the benefit of a prep run (David Davies/PA)

“Secret Reprieve will hopefully go straight to Chepstow,” Williams said.

“I wouldn’t say we are on course, because we haven’t had a prep run.

“I would dearly have loved to have got a prep run under his belt and I presume we will just use it as a stepping stone to dates we know after Christmas.

“It has been very tricky. We have not been able to get a run into him. The lack of rain has definitely had implications not just for him, but for many trainers and horses.”

On Monday, the Vale of Glamorgan handler was still basking in the afterglow of success with Coole Cody following Saturday’s Racing Post Gold Cup victory at Cheltenham, but Williams reiterated that plans are on hold for the 10-year-old.

“It was a lovely weekend,” said Williams. “There is no plan for him at all. We were just delighted that he has managed to win a major prize again. It is a race with a lot of history, so it was a nice race to win.

“There is nothing on the horizon for him, though. We will just see how the horse comes out of the race and worry about everything else from there. He seems fine and has taken it well.”

Looking ahead to the weekend, Williams is anticipating a dual-pronged attack in the Virgin Bet Tommy Whittle Handicap Chase, one of the feature races on an exciting seven-race Haydock Park card.

Both Fado Des Brosses and No Rematch are expected to make their belated seasonal debuts at the Merseyside track.

Williams said: “Even though he has an entry in the Welsh National, I’d like to go to the Tommy Whittle on Saturday with Fado Des Brosses. I have got two in that with No Rematch.”

Redemption for Coole Cody in Cheltenham feature

Coole Cody made amends for falling on his last visit to Cheltenham when winning the Racing Post Gold Cup at Cheltenham.

Evan Williams’ 10-year-old came down at the second-last when still leading in his bid to lift the Paddy Power Gold Cup for the second successive year last month.

Midnight Shadow took the spoils that day but Coole Cody (12-1) got his revenge in game fashion under Adam Wedge.

He led at the second fence, galloped on strongly all the way and proved impossible to pass, crossing the line two lengths to the good.

Midnight Shadow met the penultimate fence wrong but he was still second until the dying strides where Zanza snatched the runner-up spot by a short head. Midnight Shadow was third with Fusil Raffles fourth.

Wedge said: “Once I got the front, he just starts taking me and enjoying it. He gallops and I knew he wouldn’t lie down.

“It’s a shame what happened the last day, but it was brilliant he’s gone and done that today.

“Evan has done a fantastic job getting the horse’s confidence back and getting him here in A1 condition.”

The International – Day Two – Cheltenham Racecourse – Saturday 11th December
Coole Cody soars over the last (David Davies/PA)

Williams said: “These big pots are hard to come back and keep having a crack at and the horse is no spring chicken, but although he had a fall last time, those things don’t seem to affect Coole Cody.

“With a lot of horses you’re always nervous after a fall, but when this horse falls on the floor he thinks it’s a bit of fun! He’s a very angry character who will go to war every day if he could.

“He’s just one of those rare breed of horses that’s very tough and very genuine and faces the music every time he comes to a big gig. It’s hard to put into words how tough a horse he is.”

He went on: “The track suits him and I went through the form of the race – and unless I was missing something, I couldn’t see why our horse was 12-1 and the horse that won the Paddy Power was the price he was.

“He’s won a Paddy Power and he’s won this. If he never wins another race in his life, he’s a 10-year-old who has done nothing but try and help us every time he goes to a racecourse.

“These big ones are sweet, especially with the history of these races. I was brought up watching them and remember all those brilliant horses winning them.

“To be in the same context as them means an awful lot.”

Williams could consider valuable Ascot handicap for Silver Streak

Evan Williams could drop Silver Streak into a handicap after the eight-year-old produced a somewhat disappointing effort when fourth of six in the Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on Saturday.

Having chased home Sceau Royal on his seasonal debut at Kempton, hopes were high that last season’s Christmas Hurdle winner would show his best in the competitive Grade One event.

However, Adam Wedge’s mount failed to fire and was beaten eight lengths by Not So Sleepy and Epatante, who dead-heated.

Williams said: “He is grand, but he just didn’t jump and you can’t win those races when you don’t jump.

“I suppose he will be entered in the Christmas Hurdle, but I might enter him in a handicap – the Betfair Exchange Trophy Handicap Hurdle (formerly known as the Ladbrokes Handicap Hurdle) – because they have dropped him 4lb for Saturday’s run.

“I might go to Ascot with him and drop him down. I was just disappointed by the way he jumped.

“We will have a little check to see that we are not missing something, but he is grand in himself and seems absolutely fine.

Silver Streak is a top-class hurdler at his best
Silver Streak is a top-class hurdler at his best (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He popped over a couple of hurdles on Monday, just because I couldn’t quite work out why he was so poor, but there was nothing obvious.

“We will put him in everything, so he has options. He will have an entry in the Betfair Exchange Trophy – the entries close today (Tuesday) and he will be entered in the Christmas Hurdle, and we will go from there.”

The Llancarfan trainer is keeping a watchful eye on the weather ahead of the weekend, with promising mare Current Mood holding an entry in Sandown’s Grade Two Ballymore Winter Novices’ Hurdle on Friday.

The six-year-old has won two from three over hurdles, but Williams may swerve the race and stay nearer to home for her next run.

He said: “Current Mood is entered at Sandown on Friday, but I would keep an eye on that, as the race I would really like to run her in comes at Haydock in a couple of weeks’ time – a mares’ Listed novice hurdle, which I think I would prefer to go to.

“I wouldn’t want to sniff at any black type with her though, as she is a grand mare and I would like to find a bit of black type with her. She will be entered in all those graded novices’ just to hunt a bit of black type.”

Like many trainers, Williams is desperate for the ground to ease after a thus-far dry winter.

Esprit Du Large has a weekend entry
Esprit Du Large has a weekend entry (Mark Kerton/PA)

He admitted: “I have a couple of nice horses entered at Sandown on Saturday – Mack The Man and Esprit Du Large – in the Listed Betfair Daily Rewards December Handicap Hurdle, but they could do with a drop of rain.

“I have a couple of nice ones in the Betfair Exchange London National Handicap Chase, but they also need a drop of rain.

“No Rematch is a nice horse, but wants proper soft ground, while Fado Des Brosses is another nice staying horse who wants soft ground and I’m desperate to get a start into them, but we have to do what is best for them.

“They have started to back up with me a little bit. I have a lot of soft-ground horses that need proper rain. It is very frustrating for people, but the job will come.”

Ground puts Fighting Fifth off the agenda for Metier

The lack of rain is causing havoc for many trainers and among those is Harry Fry, who will not be declaring exciting prospect Metier for Saturday’s Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle.

The five-year-old rattled up a hat-trick of victories from four runs last season, which included a 12-length heavy-ground victory in the Grade One Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle at Sandown.

Ranging between 10-1 and 16-1 in the ante-post market for the two-mile feature at the Gosforth Park track, Metier will not be making the journey north.

Fry said: “Metier won’t be going to the Fighting Fifth, because he will not have the ground he prefers.

“There are plenty of good races for him between now and Christmas and we are looking forward to seeing how far he can climb the ladder. He is only five and, of course, we will find out sooner rather than later if he is a handicapper or a graded hurdler.

“He is already a Grade One winner and he will be contesting graded races, but he has to go out and prove it off a mark of 144 and earn the right. We are very much looking forward to seeing if he can, but we are being held up by the ground.”

The same may well apply to the stable’s Boothill, who could have to wait for his chasing debut.

Third in a well-contested Listed handicap hurdle at Ascot last month, Fry is keen to send the six-year-old son of Presenting novice chasing and he holds an entry at Newbury on Friday.

Fry admitted: “We want to start Boothill over fences on Friday at Newbury. We think he is very talented horse, but again we will have to have a watching brief because the ground may come up too quick for him.”

In contrast, Evan Williams, who gained a welcome Grade Three success when Dans Le Vent landed the Betfair Exchange Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle at Haydock on Saturday, is praying the dry spell continues for Silver Streak.

Last season’s Kempton Christmas Hurdle winner was runner-up to Sceau Royal at the same track on his seasonal reappearance and is on course for the Fighting Fifth.

Williams said: “Unlike some, we are hoping the ground stays as dry as it is. The better the ground, the better it will be for him.

“Silver Streak is in good form and has been working well. It will be a tough race, but he will take his chance if the rain stays away.

“It was good to have a nice winner on Saturday and if Dans Le Vent never wins another race, he will still have done his job. He’s come out of that well, but we have no plans for him yet.”

Family success has Williams fighting back the tears

Evan Williams was left fighting back the tears in the Haydock winner’s enclosure after seeing daughter Isabel steer Dans Le Vent to victory in the Betfair Exchange Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle.

It takes something a little bit special to bring out the emotions in the Welsh trainer, who is no stranger to big-race success thanks to the exploits of flying grey Silver Streak among others.

But even he was struggling to find the words to describe his feelings after Dans Le Vent secured Grade Three honours and the lion’s share of £100,000 on Merseyside.

He said: “It’s magical. The kid does all the work with this horse and it’s brilliant.

“I wouldn’t have run the horse to be honest, but Isabel said we should run in that race at Haydock. I thought she must fancy a day out on Merseyside!

“I thought it was stupid, but I said on the TV I’m a dinosaur and there’s no doubt that I am! It’s a good job the kids are there to point me in the right direction.”

He added: “It’s the biggest win of Isabel’s career and it’s great – it’s mad how it works out sometimes.

“Every day is special, but having daughters riding in racing must be a penance for something I’ve done in a previous life – I must have done something very wrong!

“It’s tough because you’ve got to be a professional, but you’ve also got to be a father, so when something like this happens it kicks you in the guts a bit – I thought I wasn’t like that.

“It’s very special.”

The winning rider said: “The horse has been ultra-reliable and they always say in the race descriptions ‘given too much to do’. He gets to the front and pricks his ears and only thinks he needs to win by a nose.

“He was brilliant today and the step up in trip really helped. I was fairly confident throughout, but you can only ask him once and I’m glad I didn’t need to use my petrol early.”

Williams wants rain for Secret Reprieve – but not hopeful for this weekend

Evan Williams is desperate for rain to allow him to run last season’s Coral Welsh National winner Secret Reprieve.

The seven-year-old has not run since taking the rearranged Coral marathon in early January, just missing the cut for the Randox Grand National at Aintree in April.

Williams scratched Secret Reprieve from the early-closing Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle at Haydock on Saturday, but has given him an entry in both Double Daily Rewards With Betfair Graduation Chase and the My Odds Boost On Betfair Handicap Chase on the same card if rain does come.

“I took him out of the hurdle race because it just wouldn’t be right on that ground for him round there over hurdles. If it was very soft, I’d have looked at it,” said the Llancarfan handler.

“I’ve put him in a couple of chases on Saturday, but he is a very unlikely runner. I entered him because I would desperately like to run, but I imagine we won’t be going. He’s entered in case there is a shower up there, then we’re in if we needed to go.

“He’s entered in the graduation chase and the three-mile chase. I’m just needing to get him out somewhere, but I wouldn’t run him unless there was soft in the description.

“I don’t think there’s any rain in the forecast, but I’ve said that before and it’s teemed down. If he’s not in, he can’t run.”

Silver Streak remains on target for the Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle
Silver Streak remains on target for the Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Another of Williams’ stable stars, Silver Streak, would prefer the ground to stay as it is ahead of the Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on November 27.

“That’s the plan – he’s grand,” Williams added.

“He’d want things to keep dry, but we could do with rain for a few others. That’s how it goes. It suits some and doesn’t suit others.”

The eight-year-old grey will bid to make amends for last year when he was carried out by a loose horse at the second flight. He has already had a run this term, finishing second to Sceau Royal at Kempton last month.

Esprit Du Large retains Greatwood option for seasonal bow

Grade One-winning chaser Esprit Du Large could return to action in the Unibet Greatwood Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham on Sunday.

Trainer Evan Williams is thinking of giving the 2019 Henry VIII Novices’ Chase his seasonal debut over the smaller obstacles after putting a line through the last campaign.

Esprit Du Large had ended the 2019-20 season with a fall in the Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham and came down in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter on his reappearance last term.

After being beaten at odds-on at Carlisle last November, he fell at Chepstow in January and even a spin over hurdles at Wincanton in February did not work and he was pulled up behind Goshen.

Williams will see how Esprit Du Large goes later in the week before committing him to Sunday.

“I left him in the Greatwood. Whether we get there I don’t know, but it gives us the opportunity if I’m happy with his work in the middle of the week,” said the Llancarfan handler.

“He’s grand. He just had an unfortunate year. The old jumping didn’t go together. He’s in over hurdles and we’ll keep a close eye on it and see how it pans out this week and if we think it’s the right thing to do.”

Coole Cody primed for Paddy Power defence

Last year’s winner Coole Cody is among 24 horses standing their ground for Saturday’s Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham at the five-day confirmation stage.

Evan Williams’ charge took the valuable two-and-a-half-mile handicap chase by three and a quarter lengths from Spiritofthegames 12 months.

The 10-year-old shaped encouragingly on his pipe-opener over hurdles at the Prestbury Park track last month when runner-up to Guard Your Dreams in a handicap over a similar distance.

Williams said: “We’re giving it another go. He had a nice run last time and blew the old cobwebs away. Obviously we’re a bit higher than last year but we’ll give it a crack.

“He goes well round the track. He enjoys the old course which is a bonus.”

Protektorat is due to represent Dan Skelton
Protektorat is due to represent Dan Skelton (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Spiritofthegames is one of two possibles from the Dan Skelton stable along with Protektorat. The latter is one of the 5-1 ante-post joint-favourites along with Lalor, who would be having his first run for Paul Nicholls.

The Ditcheat handler also has Simply The Betts, who would be another making his debut for the yard.

Other fancied runners include the Sam Thomas-trained Al Dancer and Caribean Boy from Nicky Henderson’s stable. The weights are headed by Assemble, trained by Joseph O’Brien.

Williams rules out Ladbrokes Trophy tilt for Secret Reprieve

Evan Williams has ruled out a crack at the Ladbrokes Trophy for Secret Reprieve but otherwise, as yet, has made no firm plans for last season’s Welsh Grand National hero.

The Llancarfan trainer reports the seven-year-old to have been back in training for more than two months after summering well.

“He’s grand – he’s big and well. It would have been the end of July, beginning of August time he came into work,” said Williams.

“He’s chipping way there quietly. He won’t go to Newbury for what was the Hennessy. I don’t know where he’ll start – but I guarantee it won’t be there. He won’t even be entered.

“We’ll see how he is and where we are with him in his work and see where we are with the weather and go from from there. I haven’t got a plan.”

Secret Reprieve just missed the cut for the Randox Grand National last season, but Williams has not given the 2022 Aintree spectacular a thought yet.

“The National would be nowhere near the forefront of our minds,” he said.

“The only thing we’ve got in our minds with Secret Reprieve is to see how we get on this autumn and go from there. We haven’t got the Grand National on the radar at the moment. We’re not even thinking of it at the moment.”

Silver Streak is being targeted at the Fighting Fifth Hurdle
Silver Streak is being targeted at the Fighting Fifth Hurdle (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Although Secret Reprieve will not be in action at Newbury on November 27, another of Williams’ stars, Silver Streak, is set to head to Newcastle that day for the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle.

Connections will be hoping for better luck after the grey was carried out by Not So Sleepy at the second flight there last year.

Silver Streak, who went on to win the Grade One Christmas Hurdle at Kempton a month later, was beaten at the Sunbury track by Sceau Royal on his seasonal debut last weekend.

“He didn’t jump with any fluency but has come out of the race in great form,” said Williams.

“It was probably badly needed – he was a bit ring rusty, and the winner is a horse we’ve always admired from afar. We had no worries about being beaten by a horse like that.

“He will go to the Fighting Fifth next time if everything stays as it is today.”