'He's unbelievable' - super tough Adam Wedge lands Welsh National on Reprieve
Proud Welshman Evan Williams has never hidden his burning desire to win his nation's most prestigious race but almost as soon as he scratched that particular itch thanks to the well-in Secret Reprieve, he deflected all the credit to iron-man rider Adam Wedge, who showed why jump jockeys are regarded as such a hardy bunch.
Wedge got up off the floor after two falls and, having been beaten on a Williams-trained favourite in the race before the Welsh National, faced further disaster when the breast girth came loose on Secret Reprieve in the big race.
Nothing was going to stop him this time, however, and he delivered the cherished home win on the strongly fancied favourite, whose starting price of 5-2 owed much to the fact he was racing off 8lb lower than his new rating.
In his moment of triumph, Williams was full of praise and admiration for Wedge. "It doesn't matter how good jockeys are if they haven't got the heart," he said.
"If they're not tough they're no good to anybody and what that fella has done today is unbelievable. This one's for Adam."
Viewer discretion was required for the horror fall Wedge suffered when departing from Esprit Du Large earlier on the card and the 31-year-old might have thought he was in for one of those days when, following a dash to the weighing room and some desperate strapping by the medics, he fell in the next race on stablemate Clyne.
He then finished second on favourite Can You Call but turned his day around in spectacular fashion in the Welsh National, even with the loose breast girth flapping around in the closing stages.
Odds of 5-2 may have looked skinny in a contest of this nature but they appeared generous as Secret Reprieve cruised into contention before staying on strongly to defeat The Two Amigos and Yala Enki, a courageous third in the £150,000 Grade 3 for the third year running.
Williams, whose day started by watching daughter Isabel finish second on Champagne Rhythm, another beaten market leader, said: "You've got to get to the bottom to get to the top and take a bit of pain in this game.
"I had no pain, but this isn't about Evan Williams. Someone came up to me and said how could Adam ride after that fall and then he got another slap in the race after. He's in trouble in there, but I can't say anything other than he's a proper man. All the jockeys are heroes in my eyes but that one was for Wedgey because he showed toughness beyond toughness to ride that horse."
Wedge admitted it had been touch and go whether he would be able to make it through the day.
"I'm sore now and was holding on to it for the big race," he said. "I went back in and was very winded and very sore after Esprit Du Large, but the fact I had a ride to keep me going straight after probably helped as I didn't get stiff.
"Straight after the first fall I was questioning myself about riding, but I felt okay even though I fell on the next one. Once your adrenaline is up you don't feel anything. You know you're sore, but you're riding the race. It's madness, but we do it because we love it."
As for the drama on Secret Reprieve, the jockey said: "I'm not sure what happened with the saddle. I think the girth snapped or came undone, but thank God we've got the overgirth and everything stayed in place."
The Halesowen native, by now an adopted Welshman, loved supplying Williams with such a cherished winner, adding: "It means so much for him to win it – it's a race he's always held close to his heart."
It was clear what success meant to Williams, who is based around 40 miles from Chepstow on the other side of Cardiff.
Charged with emotion and remembering his late father Rhys, the trainer said: "The horse had a massive chance on paper, but you can have as big a chance as you want, it doesn't matter if you're squashed at the last with 500kg of horse on top of you."
Williams' winning speech also included praise for the Rucker family, who own Secret Reprieve and also had Cappa Bleu, one of three Welsh National placings for the yard, which could aim the well-built son of Flemensfirth at the Randox Health Grand National.
It would, in the trainer's words, be silly not to think about jump racing's most treasured prize, for which Secret Reprieve is a general 25-1 shot.
"I've always said I wanted to win this," said Williams. "We've had some wonderful days when no-one would realise, winning with some little horse we've patched up, so they're all sweet, but it's more relief than anything."
This time it was a patched-up jockey who made Williams' day and what a relief it was he was able to ride.
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