Tiger provides Williams with first festival winner at 33-1
It was a long time coming, and there were some agonising near misses on the way, but Nick Williams never doubted he would train a Festival winner one day and was far from surprised when 33-1 chance Flying Tiger finally obliged for him.
Williams had been thwarted by one of the festival's greatest ever rides when Maljimar was caught on the line by the Sir Anthony McCoy-ridden Wichita Lineman in 2009 – "he was three lengths ahead starting up the run-in", he recalled, all too clearly – and there had been plenty more in a career which started quietly almost 19 years ago, including Reve De Sivola, For Non Stop, and more recently last year's Fred Winter third Coo Star Sivola.
But Williams, whose step-daughter Lizzie Kelly preferred fifth-placed Diable De Sivola, had never lost faith and said: "I knew that sooner or later we would win something."
Williams, who pointed out that Kelly had been instrumental in introducing a few tweaks to Flying Tiger's regime that may well have been crucial, added: "We always thought Flying Tiger was a good horse and we obviously made the right call in coming here rather than the Triumph. You can't run in the Triumph off 134, and the pound the handicapper dropped him after the Adonis probably made the difference as he's only won a neck."
Richard Johnson was the beneficiary of Kelly's input after a far from enjoyable ride at Exeter on Flying Tiger's first start since he arrived from France, and he made the most of his opportunity to record his first win of the meeting.
"That's the first time this week I've been competitive," revealed the champion jockey. "He was a bit gassy early on but the race suited him as he's quite free going, so the faster they go the better it suits him. To be fair he picked up really nicely after the second last and did it really well."
Top weight Divin Bere showed the benefit of his wind op in finishing a gallant second off 139, just ahead of the progressive Nietzsche, who looked as if he might win going to the last.
Nicky Henderson, trainer of the runner-up, said: "He’s done everything right and didn’t quite win but he ran an excellent race."
Nietzsche's rider Danny Cook commented: "He just missed the last and landed on his back end. He lost momentum but then galloped on well again. Onwards and upwards for next season."
In the meantime trainer Brian Ellison will consider Aintree, Ayr and Punchestown, but only if the ground is right.
"He’s a 10lb better horse on soft ground and if the ground doesn’t come right we won’t run," he said.