Tag Archive for: Win My Wings

Williams lining up triple challenge in bet365 Gold Cup

There has been only one man to follow in the big staying handicap chases this season and Christian Williams is set to launch a three-pronged assault on the last major prize of the current campaign when he saddles Scottish Grand National one-two Win My Wings and Kitty’s Light, as well as Coral Trophy winner Cap Du Nord, in Sandown’s bet365 Gold Cup Handicap Chase on Saturday.

The Ogmore-By-Sea handler has saddled 34 winners this season and it should come as no shock that 26 of those and over £550,000 of his total prize-money haul for the term, has come in races staged over further than two miles and seven furlongs.

His Kitty’s Light, who is the 5-1 second favourite with the sponsor, was a luckless runner-up in a chaotic ending to the three-mile-five-furlong Sandown contest 12 months ago and has proven to be the most consistent of bridesmaids once again this season, finishing second on four occasions.

Kitty's Light (right) was an unlucky loser last year
Kitty’s Light (right) was an unlucky loser last year (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

His latest silver medals have come behind his stablemates that are also engaged here and Williams believes it would be a fitting end to the season if the six-year-old can finally land a huge pot.

He said: “I think everybody would think that he’d very much deserve a success, not just us at Christian Williams racing.

“There would be plenty of cheers at Sandown if he was to win, he’s just so consistent. He’s a mile horse really being by Nathaniel, it’s not his fault he was bought by a staying chase trainer!

“I just feel a bit sorry for Kitty because a Christian Williams horse has stopped him in his two starts this year – Cap Du Nord at Kempton and Win My Wings at Ayr – but I think he’s won over £80,000 in those alone, so he’s won good money for his owners (Richard Bedford & All Star Sports Racing).”

However, Williams was keen to advise that Saturday is not a revenge mission for Kitty’s Light to right the wrong of 2021 and that the Scottish Grand National was perhaps his number one aim for the spring.

““We aimed Kitty’s Light for the Scottish National, so we don’t worry about things like last year too much. If we had a chip on our shoulder and had a big issue about it, we would have laid him out for this race,” Williams said at a media event organised by The Jockey Club.

There is a case to be made for all three of Williams’ runners to be right in the mix at the finish of this season-ending contest and it would be a fitting way for the Welshman to end a campaign in which he has dominated the stamina-sapping events.

Williams is wary of Enrilo in the main event
Williams is wary of Enrilo in the main event (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

However, the 39-year-old stressed that none of his trio have been laid out for this race and they could prove vulnerable to one that has been plotted for the £90,000 first prize.

He said: ““It would be a great end to the season, but it won’t spoil it if we don’t win.

“The only worry is that there might have been the odd horse or two who might have been pencilled in for this – I don’t know whether Paul Nicholls has shown his hand with Enrilo, but we’ll find out on Saturday. I’m sure he’ll be going there thinking he can beat us and we’ll be driving to Sandown thinking the same.”

Williams is hoping the success he has had this season could result in an increased string size in the future and is always looking for ways in which he can improve the quality of the occupants of Ogmore Farm.

He explained: “The phones have been ringing since Ayr and we can’t do more than what we’re doing, so it’s been great. We set out every year to try to win the ITV races and pick out which horses can win them.

“We try to win pots where the good prize money is and then you just hope that the owners re-invest it. Win My Wings’ owners have won some nice prize money and they’re going to buy another horse next year, so we’re always thinking.

“I think we’re having a nicer type of horse every year and we’ll go into next year with nicer horses. When you walk around the yard, you see them every morning and you can see month to month that the quality is going up. We’re spending £40,000 on horses now whereas last year we were spending £15,000 and hopefully we can start spending 60,000 and 70,000 down the line.

“We’re always on the lookout for horses every day and for a new place as well. We’ll find something. I have plenty of confidence in what I do and I have good staff, so moving is not something I’m worried about.

“Plenty of people march around and say they want to be champion trainer, but I think you need to be realistic. We enjoy winning the big races and we’d like better horses, and probably to find better horses you need to have more coming through your yard.”

Progressive Win My Wings heads up bet365 Gold Cup contenders

Scottish Grand National heroine Win My Wings heads 26 confirmations for Saturday’s bet365 Gold Cup.

Winner of the Eider Chase at Newcastle in February, the Christian Williams-trained mare followed up with an emphatic victory at Ayr three weeks ago under leading Irish amateur Rob James.

With the weights having gone up a stone after the likes of Clan Des Obeaux, Al Boum Photo and Kemboy were all withdrawn, Win My Wings has been allotted 11st 12lb for the traditional jumps season finale.

Williams has also left in Kitty’s Light, an unfortunate loser in last year’s bet365 Gold Cup and runner-up to Win My Wings in Scotland, as well as Cap Du Nord.

Alan King’s Potterman won the race in the stewards’ room 12 months ago and looks set to bid for back-to-back victories.

Enrilo, who was demoted to second in last year’s renewal, is also in contention once more for Paul Nicholls on the day the Ditcheat handler will be crowned champion trainer for the 13th time.

Other leading contenders include Lucinda Russell’s Cheltenham Festival scorer Corach Rambler and the Philip Hobbs-trained Deise Aba, who was pulled up in the Grand National at Aintree a fortnight ago.

Last year’s winner Greaneteen is one of nine entries for the bet365 Celebration Chase.

Bryony Frost and Greaneteen on their way to winning last year's Celebration Chase
Bryony Frost and Greaneteen on their way to winning last year’s Celebration Chase (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

The Nicholls-trained gelding notched a second Grade One win at Sandown in the Tingle Creek in December, but must bounce back from a disappointing effort at the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown.

The highest-rated horse is Dan Skelton’s Nube Negra, who is fresh after sidestepping the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham on account of the rain-softened ground.

Funambule Sivola, trained by Venetia Williams, finished second in the two-mile championship at Prestbury Park behind Energumene, but subsequently failed to fire at Aintree could turn out again.

Sceau Royal (Alan King) and Envoi Allen (Henry de Bromhead) are also in the mix.

Gary Moore’s Goshen is the star name among 11 entries for the Grade Two Select Hurdle in which Langer Dan could step up in class, while the Grade Two Oaksey Chase features the Nicholls-trained pair of Hitman and Saint Calvados, Nicky Henderson’s Mister Fisher and Nuts Well from Ann Hamilton’s yard.

Win My Wings storms to Scottish National glory on famous day for Christian Williams

Christian Williams dominated the Coral Scottish Grand National as Win My Wings led home stablemate Kitty’s Light in the Ayr showpiece.

Former jockey Williams had saddled the first two home in the Coral Trophy at Kempton in February and on the same afternoon Win My Wings won the Eider Chase at Newcastle.

He probably never thought he would equal that achievement – but in saddling the first two home in Scotland’s biggest race, the Welsh handler once again proved there are not many better when it comes to training staying chasers.

Win My Wings – the 13-2 joint-favourite with Kitty’s Light – was ridden with extreme confidence by Irish amateur Rob James, whose 7lb claim offset almost all the 8lb rise she incurred for winning at Newcastle.

James had only ever ridden one other winner in the UK, Milan Native in the Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival, but is one of the most prolific winning point-to-point jockeys in Ireland.

Having settled his mare in mid-division behind a generous early pace, he kept out of trouble on the outside before joining Ask A Honey Bee a long way from home.

Stamina is the winner’s forte and as the likes of Major Dundee and Ashtown Lad began to tire, Win My Wings just pulled further and further clear.

James allowed her to coast home after the last, as Kitty’s Light stayed on dourly to claim second, seven lengths adrift. Major Dundee was third with Fidux fourth.

Williams said: “I feel sorry for Kitty’s but nothing would have beaten her today, that’s how it looked to me. It was some performance.

“I was pretty confident the whole race to be honest, but I was just a little worried if she’d done a bit too much too early in the race.

“Rob kept her out of trouble on the outside and she jumped great.

“I don’t know about Aintree next year. She wouldn’t be over-big which would be a concern and the thing about Aintree is you have to build your whole season around it and there’s a lot of fun to be had before then. I’ll talk to the owners.

“She’s been to France before and won so that style of racing does suit her, but I don’t think she’ll go this year as she’s had two hard races.

Christian Williams (left) and Robert James lift the trophy
Christian Williams (left) and Robert James lift the trophy (Jeff Holmes/PA)

“She might go to Sandown for the bet365 Gold Cup, she does have that option so I wouldn’t have thought it would be France this year. The thing is with these mares when they get on a roll you want to keep the ball rolling. We’ll sit down after the weekend and chat sensibly.

“Sandown is an option for Kitty’s as well. He’s had some hard races and while he hasn’t won a big one this season he’s won plenty of prize-money.

“He’s got time on his side still, he’s still only six and he’ll win a big one some day, he’s got plenty of time.”

He added: “They are two wonderful horses, two great jockeys and it’s just a shame all the staff couldn’t be here to celebrate, so we’ll do that when we get home.”

Williams keen to go for Scottish National gold

Christian Williams has Ayr’s Coral Scottish National in his sights with both Kitty’s Light and Win My Wings.

Win My Wings was a well-backed winner of the Eider Chase at Newcastle last time out, while on the same afternoon Kitty’s Light finished second to stablemate Cap Du Nord in the Coral Trophy at Kempton.

Initially Williams was keen to split his two stayers up, but with the Ayr race coming before Aintree this season the Glamorgan-based handler feels he has a good chance of taking a large share of the £150,000 prize back to Wales.

“The plan is to run them both. We had been think of holding Win My Wings back for the bet365 Gold Cup, but at the moment we’re aiming both at Ayr,” said Williams.

Kitty's Light (right) went close in the Bet 365 Gold Cup last season
Kitty’s Light (right) went close in the Bet 365 Gold Cup last season (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“I’m keen to support the race. I’ve always respected the Scottish National meeting and we’re now in a privileged position to be able to aim horses at it, fingers crossed.

“We figured six months ago that with it coming before Aintree this year it might not be as strong as normal so we were keen to target it.

“To be going to the Scottish National with chances is great, it’s a great sponsorship from Coral with great prize-money so we’re keen to support it.

Win My Wings won the Eider Chase last time out
Win My Wings won the Eider Chase last time out (David Davies/PA)

“Kitty’s is only six and nothing that age has won it, but they told me last year a five-year-old couldn’t win the bet365 Gold Cup and he did everything but win it. We don’t take much notice of statistics, especially where he is concerned.

“The ground should be perfect for the pair of them, it was decent ground at Newcastle when the mare won (Win My Wings) so she should have a good chance, she was very impressive at Newcastle.

“That was her first time over an extended trip and she should have learned a good bit from that.”

Williams mapping out plans for weekend wonders

Christian Williams has big spring targets in mind for the trio of horses that provided him a day to remember.

The Welsh trainer enjoyed a superb Saturday on February 26 when landing an Eider Chase-Coral Trophy double with Win My Wings and Cap Du Nord respectively.

The latter also came home ahead of stablemate Kitty’s Light, who was second by two and three-quarter lengths in the valuable Kempton handicap.

Win My Wings is now likely to head for the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown at the end of the season,  in which Kitty’s Light was an unlucky loser 12 months ago.

After the Newcastle victory there was also talk of heading across the channel with the mare, who landed the two-and-a-quarter-mile Prix Pansa at Compiegne in May last year and as a result took nearly £20,000 in prize-money home to Wales.

“She’ll go in the old Whitbread I’d say, the bet365, she’ll probably have an entry in the Scottish National as well but I’m just a little bit mindful that it might cut up a little bit this year because the Grand National runners will be taken out of it,” the trainer said.

“We definitely will go (to France), not for the same race with her but we’ll try to do a bit of damage in France as well.”

Cap Du Nord has the Betway Chase in his sights, a Grade Three event run prior to the Grand National on the final day of Aintree’s flagship meeting in April.

“Cap Du Nord will go to Aintree on Grand National day next, for the three-mile handicap chase,” said Williams.

“He’s flying after the other weekend, I’m looking forward to having my first Aintree winner with him!”

Cap Du Nord winning the Coral Trophy Handicap Chase at Kempton
Cap Du Nord winning the Coral Trophy Handicap Chase at Kempton (Simon Marper/PA)

Kitty’s Light is another who will have an entry in the Scottish National and is more likely to head to Ayr than to take up his engagement in the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter.

“Kitty’s Light will go for the Scottish National, I think, I wouldn’t have thought he’d go to Uttoxeter,” Williams said.

“I’d like to keep him over three miles because I think he can win a big race over three miles, but the owners might persuade me to run him over a bit further.

“I’d like to wait until the Grand National next year before I step him up, but the owners will probably want to go for the Scottish National I’d say.”

Williams’ red-letter day was also a significant milestone for jockey Jack Tudor, who steered Cap Du Nord to success at Kempton, as the victory brings the young rider just one victory away from losing his claim altogether.

“It was a brilliant day, unbelievable, and the main thing was a good win for Jack who is one win away from losing his claim now,” said Williams.

“It’s fantastic for him and the whole team, it was a great day.”

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

Win My Wings takes flight to land Eider gamble

Win My Wings landed one of the gambles of the season with victory in the Vertem Eider Handicap Chase at Newcastle.

Available at 20-1 on Friday, the nine-year-old was backed into 11-2 favouritism and supporters of the Christian Williams-trained mare had little to worry about in the marathon chase.

Settled at the rear by Ryan Mania, the combination picked off their rivals one by one on the final circuit and Win My Wings found herself among a leading group of four with half a mile to run.

They included Classic Chase winner Eclair Surf, 10lb higher than for his Warwick win and who jumped well at the head of affairs.

Court Master and Innisfree Lad were also still in contention – but eyes were continually drawn to Win My Wings, with Mania sitting pretty.

She put the race to bed at the second-last and was in no danger when Mania eased her down in the final 50 yards, allowing Eclair Surf to close back up to be beaten a length and three-quarters.

Innisfree Lad was third with Court Master fourth.

“I’m delighted,” said Williams.

“We thought she had a good chance all week and we put the cheekpieces on and thought it would help her in the early part of the race. And she jumped and travelled great. It was a great pleasure to watch.

“It was great to watch with with the owners and family. We fancied her more after the race than before! I am a little overwhelmed by it, but it is always good to have big winners like this.

“We will probably go to France again now for the race she won last year (Prix Pansa Hurdle at Compiegne).”

He added: “She didn’t scope quite right three weeks ago, but we managed to get her back in good form. She scoped good two days ago and that was brilliant.

“We took a chance with the cheekpieces, I got a bit of stick for it but I felt we needed to improve a little bit to win the race and they might help her, she travelled sweet all the way.

“She comes to herself in the spring and went there in good form.”