Evan Williams has issued an upbeat report concerning the increased likelihood of his fine servant State of Play who will hopefully contest his fourth successive John Smith’s Grand National at Aintree on April 14, writes Elliot Slater.
The veteran hasn’t been seen in public since running another cracking race in the Liverpool marathon 12 months ago when a staying-on fourth of the 40-runner field to Ballabriggs, his third successive placed finish in ‘the world’s greatest steeplechase’ having run fourth to the shock 100/1 scorer Mon Mome in the 2009 renewal, and then gone one place better in 2010 when third to the AP McCoy-ridden Don’t Push It. Those following the 2012 online Grand National betting odds will be wondering if he can improve again.
Originally there had been concerns that having been ranked 56th in the initial list of entries the 12-year-old might struggle to make the cut, but following the latest declaration stage that danger appears to have been overcome with the gelded son of Hernando now 42nd on the list in a race where the top 40 will take their chance. Ever since his fine run in the four-and-a-half-mile showpiece event last year – his only outing of last season – Williams has been working towards returning the classy staying chaser to his favourite event, knowing full well that State of Play is a fragile horse and notoriously difficult to train.
Thankfully, all seems to have gone well and the winner of seven of his 25 career starts seems to be in particularly good form at the moment. A horse who tends to go best when fresh and who relishes decent ground, it is looking increasingly likely that the current 40/1 shot will be granted optimum conditions, and hopes are high that he can figure in the finish for a remarkable fourth successive year.