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State of Play: a legend in our eyes

When I say ‘our’ I mean his connections and mine. Turning in at Aintree yesterday (and isn’t that just the longest, hardest to look at run-in in the world) he looked to be merely a finisher, well down the field. Then somehow and I don’t know how, because rightly the camera was focussing on the monumentally brave, from the front, run of the winner Ballabriggs, the little bay by Hernando managed to finish 4th.

So when State of Play’s trainer, Evan Williams, said he was a ‘legend’ for finishing in the top four in the race for the third year in a row, I made him right. I like Evan, I met him once at Cheltenham and we had a chat about an ex-flat racehorse that Williams had sent over hurdles and coaxed a win out of. I think the horse was called Spartacus, or I’m Spartacus, or something; not that it matters. Williams had said a few days before the race that he didn’t think his horse was quite up to winning the National in any case, a fact that had passed me by, which was just as well as I might have thought twice about my each way bet @ 28/1. Anyway it was good that Ballabriggs won for the McCain family in the trademark Red Rum noseband. It was less good that the winner had such a hard time he had to receive oxygen on the track and then there is the sad fact that the race claimed the lives of two horses: Dooney’s Gate and Ornais. In an earlier race on the card jockey Peter Toole took a nasty fall and is in a critical condition in hospital with a head injury; we can only wish him well.

It is a hard race the National, and it is a hard game, the jumps. The bad news sort of takes it out of you a bit, so I will leave today’s post with the words of Evan Williams on State of Play’s performance and why he sees him, rightly, as a legend.

To be associated with a horse that has done it and done this much for my career and our yard, I will never have another horse that has done what he has done for me.

He is a very, very sweet horse and will always have a very special place in my heart. It is a difficult task to be placed in one National but to have done it three years on the bounce is an incredible endorsement of how tough and genuine the horse is.

He had a great start and was first crossing the Melling Road and was shuffled back down the field but he had a storming finish as guts and sheer determination of that little horse kept him going.

*wipes away tear*

Him coming back next year is something I would have to to give plenty of thought to. It would be silly of me to say what I will do next year now.

Evan, please don’t bring the little horse back next year, he’s done enough. They’ve all done enough.