Nick Williams: trainer sends out first two home to land titlePICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Williams 1-2 completes Crystal Cup domination
Report: France, Friday
Compiegne: Grand Steeple-Chase Cross-Country de Compiegne (Cross Country Chase) 3m3f, 5yo+
NICK WILLIAMS broke the French stranglehold on the Crystal Cup in some style as his horses finished first and second in the penultimate leg of Europe's Cross Country Championship, guaranteeing victory with next month's finale at Cheltenham still to go.
Sent off a 29-1 chance, Sarika got the better of a sprint from the last under last-minute replacement Alain Chitray, holding on to deny Shalimar Fromentro and James Reveley by a neck.
"Incroyable!" said Williams to the surrounding press and dignitaries.
"I'm completely shocked, it's the first time Sarika has run well in one of these. He's fallen and refused in the past but the jockey, who rode him beautifully, said today he jumped well and it's marvellous. Both of them have are only in their first season of cross country so there could be more to come."
There was an early scare for Williams and wife Jane, who is an integral part of the team and led up Salimar Fromentro.
Regis Schmidlin had been booked for the ride but was required elsewhere by connections, while stewards vetoed a second jockey on the grounds he wasn't of the same standard as the intended rider.
When approached Chitray called his boss Thomas Trapenard, who gave the all clear on hearing that the ride was for Williams - Trapenard's father Gilles is the breeder of Williams's smart hurdler Urbain De Sivola.
For his part Chitray remained calm among the celebrations, having crept away at the rear of the field throughout most of the race.
"Compiegne is a bit of a specialist track and you need to save some speed for the finish," he said modestly.
Main title rival Patrice Quinton looked well placed at half way to eat into the 13½ point lead enjoyed by Williams before the tapes went up, with Sulon leading and Sucess Des Dunes going well just in behind.
But Sucess Des Dunes gave jockey Jessy Blandamour no chance when blundering a mile from home, while Sulon lost out when the pace increased between the last two fences before staying on for fourth place.