IAN WILLIAMS celebrated a first Cheltenham Festival winner when Ballyalton won the Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase last March and has outside chances of possibly adding to that success with Kapstadt, London Prize or Byron Flyer this time around.
Williams has come a long way in a short time and passed another notable landmark when Appy Days provided him with a 1000th winner at Lingfield in November and he has the distinction of having trained a winner at every course in the UK.
Sir Maxillian will be plying his trade on the turf again this Summer after picking up some sizeable placed prize money in Meydan this Winter and his team have already notched 13 winners on the Flat this season with the true nature of this dual purpose operation illustrated that they also have 31 runners over the jumps this term.
Williams has plenty of untapped progressive individuals under his care, including possible Lincoln contender Banditry, and kindly guided Tony Elves of ATR through some of his prospects for the next few months.
7 b g Doyen - Auenglocke
113 rated chaser. Completed a four-timer when beating Leg Lock Luke a length and a half in a handicap chase at Taunton (2m 5 1/2f) in January off a mark of 108. Pulled up latest start at Ludlow (3m) in February off his current mark.
"Amber Gambler set up a real sequence of wins starting on Boxing Day over hurdles and then managed to win three times over fences in a period of about six weeks. I have to say his run at Ludlow last time when he was pulled up was out of character and fortunately we have since discovered that there was nothing amiss that was of any great consequence. I had to draw the conclusion that I was plenty tough enough with him during the winning period. He is still a horse that has plenty of scope and size and will progress later in the season but probably won't be seen out now until the end of March when options are very open for him."
7 b m King's Theatre - A-To-Z
115 rated hurdler. Finished runner-up, beaten three quarters of a length, to Casablanca in a maiden at Lingfield (1m 4f) this month.
"She has done well for her owners, Lee Westwood, Chubby Chandler and Dan Willett. She was fortunately our 1000th winner which was a very happy day when she won at Lingfield on the AW. She has been seen to good effect over hurdles since and on the AW although not winning. She is a filly who will appreciate better ground and she is having a little break at the moment before coming back for a Spring campaign in which I think she will do very well over hurdles in the mares only events and I think she can progress to win Flat races over a mile and six plus."
5 b g Iffraaj - Badalona
86 rated on the Flat. Scored his third win in last three races on the flat when beating Dutch Uncle half a length off his current mark in a handicap at Lingfield (1m 2f) last week.
"He won his third Flat race in a row recently at Lingfield showing a great deal of resolve. He is a horse we struggled to get to settle early on and his two runs over hurdles earlier in the season have done him the world of good. He can settle now and breathe in the correct manner which has helped him become a better flat horse and the form of his two hurdle runs worked out well. Whilst he hasn't trouble the judge in that discipline yet in the Spring on better ground he will be seen to very good effect. He holds a Lincoln entry but he is not high enough in the handicap but could run in the Consolation race."
7 b g Monsun - La Nuit Rose
Well beaten in two starts at Meydan (2m and 1m 6f) in January and February off a mark of 101.
"He has returned from his trip to Meydan where he didn't run as well as we would have anticipated and he is another who is enjoying a short break at the moment. He will come back with all the staying handicaps in mind during the Summer. He could possibly go for the Pitmen's Derby at Newcastle, the Ebor and races of that nature where he is handicapped well enough to be very competitive."
9 b g Grape Tree Road - Gurleigh
118 rated chaser and 114 rated hurdler. Gained last success in a a handicap hurdle at Doncaster (3m 1/2f) in January when beating Midnight Cowboy a length off a mark of 108.
"He did well to win over hurdles at Doncaster in January and we have been hanging onto him a little and getting his confidence up after a few falls over fences last season. He is now at a stage where we can move forward over fences and he enjoys better ground. We are looking to have a busy Spring with him over fences. He is nice enough handicapped and is an out and out stayer and a force to be reckoned with on is day at the right level."
6 b g Byron - Nursling
Rated 87 on the Flat and 133 rated hurdler. Beaten only a neck by Haines in a handicap at Wolverhampton (2m 1/2f) off a mark of 87 on his latest start in February.
"He has been a really exciting little horse and he is suited by decent ground. He was running the race of his life at Aintree when appearing to stop when he had his race won. We have given him some time out and a little bit of help and his first run back he was second in a very good flat staying event and probably ran his best race then. He holds an engagement in the County Hurdle at Cheltenham but he may not be high enough to get into that and could possibly end up in the consolation race at Kempton the following Saturday. He is in great form and has done very well but I still think there is a little bit more to come over both codes when the ground is suitable for him - it needs to be on the decent side."
8 b g Millkom Intersky High
116 rated hurdler. Came closest to victory this season when failing by a short head behind Divine Spear in a handicap hurdle at Fontwell (2m 1 1/2f) on Boxing Day off a mark of 115.
"He ran right up to his best at Fontwell on Boxing Day and showed up well behind Divine Spear. He is another suited by better ground and he will be back in action as soon as the ground dries for him. He is capable of winning another race under the right conditions."
GAS LINE BOY
11 b g Blueprint - Jervieu
143 rated chaser. Finished fourth, beaten 24 ¾ lengths, to Vieux Lion Rouge in the Grand National Trial Handicap Chase at Haydock (3m 4 1/2f) in February off a mark of 144.
"He ran another solid race in the Grand National Trial at Haydock earlier this year. Tactically, we probably went a bit strong from the front but he jumped well and travelled well and showed his well being. We are hoping he gets into the National but he is borderline as it stands (I think he is number 54) and should he not get in at Aintree then it is quite possible he will run in the Irish National at Fairyhouse. He was fourth in the Kerry National and won up at Kelso and his form has been rock solid all year. He is a grand horse with lots of ability and although he is getting on years I am sure he will do us proud if he gets in the National."
7 b/br g Country Reel - King's Parody
135 rated hurdler and rated 87 on the Flat. Runner-up, beaten three and a half lengths, to Zemindari in a conditions event at Chantilly (1m 2 1/2f) in February.
"He is another who has done well under both codes and he enjoyed a lovely run when winning at Cheltenham in December. He is very effective over hurdles when he is fortunate enough to have a strong pace. He acts on anything from fast to soft going and after his last run at Chantilly on the Flat in France it has been our intention to run him in the Imperial Cup at Sandown and/or the County Hurdle at Cheltenham. He is well enough handicapped and if he squeaks in at the bottom he would give a real good showing."
6 b g Teofilo - Zibet
128 rated hurdler and rated 84 on the Flat. Runner-up, beaten two and a half lengths, to Natural Scenery in a handicap at Newcastle (2m 1/2f) in February off a mark of 82.
"He has been a bit of a revelation this year. We haven't found the ideal opportunities for him over hurdles and he is unfortunate not to win two. With the ground being so bad he had a run on the AW recently in a very competitive staying event at Newcastle and ran a very solid second. He has an engagement at Cheltenham but is unlikely to take it at this stage and is likely to be contesting some of the better staying handicaps on the Flat this Summer. He is a very versatile dual purpose horse."
5 b g Kodiac - Royal Rival
Rated 82 (AW) and 60 on the turf. Gained his last win at Chelmsford (1m 6f) at the beginning off February when beating Ride The Lightning a length off a mark of 79 and creditable third, beaten two and a half lengths, to Duke Street off a mark of 82 over two miles at that course later in the month.
"I have never quite understood this horse and he is very effective on the AW tracks but can't cope with the turf whatsoever. His turf rating on the Flat is some 22lb inferior to his current AW rating of 82. I don't understand whatsoever why he hasn't done it on the turf and he will be campaigned on the flat and over hurdles in the Spring on better ground. With a mark of 60 on the turf and a mark of 90 over hurdles you would imagine there were a host of races to be won with him but he hasn't done it as yet!"
6 b m Act One - Eveon
110 rated chaser and 115 rated hurdler. Gained last success when scoring by a length and a quarter from Un Prophete in a handicap hurdle at Kempton (2m) in November off a mark of 112.
"She struggled in her first chase at Doncaster and then I made the error of running her on very soft ground at Fontwell last time. She jumps well enough, has bags of ability and off her current mark is sure to be effective over fences in the coming months when the ground has dried a little.
MOLLY THE DOLLY
6 b m Flemensfirth - Pistol Flash
Placed in two bumper and runner-up, beaten five lengths, to Tikkanbar at Sedgefield on Sunday.
"She ran very respectably in her first start in a bumper at Huntingdon and then went to Sedgefield on Sunday and finished second to Tikkanbar. We will try and win a bumper with her and hang onto her novice status over hurdles until next season."
7 ch g Indian River - Red Rover
118 rated hurdler. Finished fourth, beaten four and a quarter lengths, to Bryden Boy in a handicap hurdle at Doncaster (3m 1/2f) last Saturday.
"He started the season off very nicely at Sandown and ran a blinder at Cheltenham on his next start. He has been a little disappointing in his last two outing but has had a short break and come back to himself really nicely. He ran at Doncaster at the weekend and put in a solid performance to finish fourth to Bryden Boy. Hopefully. He can build on that effort shortly. He is a staying chaser for next season and that will be his job."
4 b g Zamindar - Cochin
70 rated on the Flat. Best effort in three runs last season when fourth, beaten a length, to Toulson at Sandown (1m 2f) off a mark of 77 in September.
"He was a weak horse last year but is a nice horse now. He showed signs of possessing a decent level of ability last season although suffered a few niggly issues. He has returned to training a much bigger and stronger individual this year. He is a horse who should be able to live up to his potential and develop into a nice handicapper during the Spring."
4 b g Duke of Marmalade - Lady Hawkfield
113 rated hurdler. Finished fourth, beaten 16 ½ lengths, to Ridgeway Flyer at Ludlow (2m) on latest start in February.
"I was a little disappointed with his run at Ludlow last time but he was another of ours who really got stuck in the mud. The handicapper thought it was his best performance yet as he put him up a few pounds. I am sure there is a bit more to come from this horse but we haven't squeezed it out of him yet. He is another who is likely to be a better Spring performer than during the depths of the Winter. He has a very handy Flat mark off 75 which I can see us making some use of at some stage."
8 b g Royal Applause - Nebraska Lady
103 rated on the Flat. Placed in two of his three starts in handicaps at Meydan this Winter. Runner-up, beaten a length and a half, to Medicean Man over five furlongs in January and third, beaten a length and a half, to Krypton Factor over six furlongs the following month.
"He has done great in Dubai this Winter and been placed on two occasions and run once on soft ground there which he doesn't like. He hasn't won for us this time around which he has done in the previous two years but he will campaigned around Chester and one or two of the nice Sprint Handicaps this Summer."
4 ch g Peintre Celebre - Saldennahe
120 rated hurdler. Has finished third in two outings over hurdles and beaten 10 lengths by Domperignon Du Lys at Newcastle (2m 1/2f) in November.
"He is a versatile horse who has done well on the Flat and performed with credit over hurdles but is yet to win under that code. It is something I am sure we can rectify in the coming weeks and he is still a horse with a lot of potential going forward. We have still to see the best of him."
3 ch g Vision D'Etat - Shamardanse
Scored by half a length from Draw Swords at Chelmsford (1m 2f) in January and beaten only three quarter of a length by Phoceen in a conditions event at Chantilly (1m 1f) the following month.
"He showed plenty of ability when winning a Chelmsford maiden and backed that performance up when running very well in a conditions race at Chantilly. He is a very versatile three-year-old who I am sure will keep on improving on the Flat. He has a pedigree that would suggest he could make a nice jumper as well and physically he could do that. There is a fair bit of water to pass under the bridge before we make that change. He is likely to take his chance in a Listed race at Fontainebleau on Thursday
8 b g Kayf Tara - Fulwell Hill
114 rated chaser. Scored by 12 lengths from Bredon Hill Lad in a handicap chase at Warwick at the end of December and pulled up subsequent start.
"He won nicely on his debut this season after being off for some time with a tendon injury. He was in the process of running a solid race at Doncaster last time when making a mistake at the third last which knocked the stuffing out of him. He jumps and travels well and off his current mark we should be able to find him more opportunities during the Spring. Possibly after being off for so long and having a tough start first time we may be able to just put a line through his second start and look forward to better things."
5 b g King's Best - Miss Particular
132 rated hurdler. Unplaced in a handicap hurdle at Ascot (2m 3 1/2f) in February off a mark of 135 on first run for the stable.
"He is a horse we purchased from Godolphin earlier in the year and he ran a race full of promise on his first start at Ascot although he struggled to get home on the very tacky ground. He is a horse who will be seen to good effect over hurdles in the coming months and also he has plenty of ability to be seen in the staying handicaps later on."
7 b g Winged Love - At Dawn
112 rated chaser and 115 rated hurdler. Came closest to victory when second, beaten three and a half lengths, to Dingo Dollar in a maiden hurdle at Bangor (2m 7f) in January.
"He showed some form over hurdles and should make a nice staying chaser. He got caught out at Huntingdon on his first chase start. The fences just came up a bit too quick on a course that was a bit quick for him too and he will be seen to better effect on a more galloping track. He remains a horse with potential.
BANDITRY - progressive individual who has more wins in him and could end up in the Lincoln if he makes the cut.
BYRON FLYER - has more to offer and in the form of his life.
KAPSTADT - can find favour in a handicap hurdle where they go a proper end-to-end gallop.
LONDON PRIZE - plenty of ability and can surely add to his tally.
RICHIE MCCAW - looking leniently handicapped now and has made significant physical progress during the Winter.
SPEEDO BOY - plenty more to come from this fellow and heads to Fontainebleau this week for a conditions event.