State Of PlayPreviously owned by Carolyn Waters, State Of Play had eight starts for trainer Paul Webber, winning a Ludlow bumper and a Hereford novice hurdle before being sold for 18,000 guineas at Doncaster Sales in August, 2005. He made an impressive winning debut for his new trainer Evan Williams that October when taking a novice chase at Chepstow and followed up with a comfortable success in a similar contest at Plumpton six weeks later. He was then pitched into Grade One company for the Feltham Novices’ Chase at Sandown on December 26, but he struggled against some top-quality opposition and was tailed off. Given a break, State Of Play returned to action in a handicap chase at Aintree’s John Smith’s Grand National meeting, when he made a mockery of his official mark of 128 and was eased down to record a stunning 16-length victory. He surpassed that success on his next appearance in the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Newbury in November, 2006, keeping on well to beat Juveigneur by four lengths. Williams kept his star chaser fresh for an ambitious tilt at the Cheltenham Gold Cup and State Of Play ran a sound race to finish sixth, just over 11 lengths behind the victorious Kauto Star, before a tepid end to his season with fourth behind Exotic Dancer in the Grade Two Betfair Bowl at Aintree. State Of Play showed his preference for running fresh with a good second to Ollie Magern on his seasonal debut in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in October, 2007, but the rest of that season proved a disappointment, with a fifth to Denman in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting followed by a sixth place in the Letheby & Christopher Chase at Cheltenham at the end of January. A confidence-restoring return to handicap company also failed at Aintree in April as State Of Play could only beat one horse home. After a five-month break, he began the current campaign with his first victory since his Hennessy triumph as he got the better of Ollie Magern in the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on November 1. He returned to the Yorkshire course to contest the skybet.com Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase on December 26, when he came home fourth behind Nozic, Tidal Bay and Cloudy Lane.
Race Record: Starts: 21; Wins: 7; 2nd: 2; 3rd: 0; Win & Place Prize Money: £229,896
William & Angela Rucker
William Rucker is chief executive of Lazard’s London operations. The bank dates back to 1848 and is one of the world's pre-eminent financial advisory and asset management firms, operating from 40 cities across 24 countries in North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, Central and South America. William joined Lazard in 1987, having previously qualified as a chartered accountant with Arthur Andersen. His wife Angela is from a legendary point-to-point family, being the grand-daughter of Major Harold Rushton, who rode 86 winners, and the daughter of Pat Tollitt, who rode 171 winners between the flags and was champion lady rider on five occasions. Angela herself is also a talented rider and has been successful on six occasions this season. The Ruckers are based at Himbleton in Worcestershire and have horses with a variety of point-to-point trainers, including Fearghal O’Brien and Sheila Crow, who trained their Cappa Bleu to win the Christie’s Foxhunter Chase at this year’s Cheltenham Festival. Horses that progress to run under rules are sent to Evan Williams, who has been well-supported by Angela’s family since he began training. Major winners for owner and trainer include State Of Play, who won the 2006 Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Newbury and the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in October, while High Chimes landed the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase at the 2008 Cheltenham Festival.
John Smith's Grand National Record: No previous runners
Unrelated to the winning jockey of the 1937 Grand National who bears the same name, Evan Williams was born on April 3, 1971, on his family’s farm in the village of Llancarfan in the Vale of Glamorgan. He used to get up at dawn to milk the cows on the family farm before going to school before taking over the running of the farm full-time when he was 17, concentrating firstly on dairy farming and then beef when the price of milk dropped. He also started training a few point-to-pointers in 1997 but the foot and mouth outbreak of 2001 decimated his herd and restrictions on the movement of livestock wiped out the point-to-point season. Williams sold his cattle at a loss after the outbreak and went to Ireland to buy 18 horses with the proceeds, going on to be champion point-to-point trainer and jockey in 2002. He took out his full training licence the following year and rode his first winner, Cherry Gold, in a hunters chase at Chepstow on April 22, 2003. Williams enjoyed his first big-race success at the same course in December of that year, when saddling Sunray to win the Finale Juvenile Hurdle at odds of 40/1. The winners continued to flow and Williams shot to national prominence with State Of Play, who followed up success in a handicap chase at Aintree’s John Smith’s Grand National meeting in April, 2006, with victory in the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Newbury seven months later. The chaser has since gone on to triumph in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in October, while other big race success has arrived courtesy of High Chimes, who gave Williams a first Cheltenham Festival winner in the 2008 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase, and Grade Two scorers Deep Purple and Simarian. Williams is assisted by top amateur James Tudor, who was champion point-to-point rider in 2007 and partnered High Chimes to his Cheltenham success. He is married to Cath who continued to train point-to-pointers after he took out his professional license, saddling over 50 winners in two seasons including the prolific Canon Bridge, who chalked up nine wins in a single campaign. Cath and Evan have three children William, Isabel and Ellie. Williams has a team of 101 in training this year.
John Smith's Grand National Record: No previous runners.