CAPPA BLEU (IRE) FACTFILE
b g Pistolet Bleu – Cappagale (Strong Gale)
11-10-11 Form: 1/3F2P/1334-22 Owners: William and Angela Rucker
Trainer: Evan Williams Breeder: Thomas O’Connor
I’m grateful to Racenews for supplying factfiles for every runner in the John Smith’s Grand National. I reformat these and publish as I get them, with the first batch coming out 2 weeks before the big race on April 6th. By the eve of the National all factfiles will be published here. You can find others by clicking on the factfiles tag at the foot of this post
Cappa Bleu was born on June 6, 2002 in Ireland for breeders Thomas and Eileen O’Connor and he raced for the family in Irish point-to-points. He made his debut at Tullow on February 10, 2008, when he fell at the penultimate fence. He returned seven days later at Knockanard and showed promise in second behind Dreamy Sweeney before breaking his maiden tag at Kilworth point-to-point in comfortable fashion. He returned after a short break, at Ballybunion point-to-point, winning well despite heavy ground.
Shropshire-based trainer Sheila Crow, who had first taken interest in the horse when Cappa Bleu was entered in a sale but then withdrawn, was looking on behalf of owners William and Angela Rucker, and went to Ireland to buy him. A deal was struck but the horse became ill travelling to England. It was touch and go whether he would survive, but he did and, following a brace of point-to-point victories, he was sent to the Christie’s Foxhunter Chase at the 2009 Cheltenham Festival where, despite his relative inexperience, he annihilated the field to win by 12 lengths.
He switched from Crow to Evan Williams for a campaign geared around a return to The Festival for chasing’s Blue Riband, the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup. However, the 2009/2010 season didn’t pan out as expected. After finishing third of five on his seasonal return at Aintree over two and a half miles of the Mildmay Course in late October, he lined up in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury but fell at the 15th when beaten.The fall reportedly knocked his confidence and he returned in February in a three-mile novices’ hurdle at Taunton, finishing second. Connections were encouraged enough to run him in the three-mile Grade One Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the 2010 Cheltenham Festival, but he was found wanting, being pulled up before the last.
He left Williams and rejoined Crow for the 2010/11 season to participate in some point-to-pointing so that he could regain his confidence. That nine-month spell appeared to be a shrewd move, because he hasn’t finished out of the frame in six subsequent starts over fences. Cappa Bleu made a winning return for Williams in a valuable three-mile handicap chase at Haydock in November, 2011, before thirds in the Coral Welsh Grand National in late December and a Listed handicap chase at Ascot in February, 2012.
He did well in last season’s John Smith’s Grand National, running on strongly to take fourth after encountering trouble on the first circuit. With the world’s greatest chase again the target for the 11-year-old, he has only run twice this season, chasing home fellow John Smith’s Grand National aspirant Across The Bay in a graduation chase at Carlisle in November and finishing second, beaten two and a half lengths, by Vino Griego in a Listed three-mile handicap chase at Ascot on February 13.
Race Record: Starts: 11; Wins: 2; 2nd: 3; 3rd: 3; Win & Place Prize Money: £122,561
William and Angela Rucker
William Rucker, born on June 18, 1963, is chief executive of Lazard London operations and has been since June, 2004. He is also deputy chief executive of the European investment banking business at Lazard. 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.
He is also non-executive chairman of Quintain Estates and Development plc and Crest Nicholson Holdings Ltd, and was a non-executive director of Rentokil Initial from 2008 to March, 2013. 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 six occasions.
Angela herself is also a talented rider and trains pointers. The Ruckers are based at Himbleton in Worcestershire and also have horses with Fergal O’Brien and a variety of point-to-point trainers, including Sheila Crow, who trained their Cappa Bleu to win the Christie’s Foxhunter Chase at the 2009 Cheltenham Festival. Horses that progress to run under Rules are principally sent to Evan Williams, who has been well supported by Angela’s family since he began training in 2003.
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 November, 2008. State Of Play became a Grand National stalwart by finishing fourth to Mon Mome in the 2009 John Smith’s Grand National, third behind Don’t Push It in the 2010 and fourth behind Ballabriggs in the 2011 renewal. High Chimes landed the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase for them at the 2008 Cheltenham Festival. They have about 20 horses in training.
John Smith’s Grand National Record: 2009 State Of Play (4th); 2010 State Of Play (3rd); 2011 State Of Play (4th); 2012 Cappa Bleu (4th); State Of Play (UR 5th)
Evan Williams (Llancarfan, Vale of Glamorgan)
Unrelated to the winning jockey of the 1937 Grand National who bears the same name and also hails from the Cowbridge area of South Wales, 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 before going to school. He took 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 rode and trained over 200 point-to-point winners.
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 Gold Cup at Newbury seven months later.
The chaser went on to triumph in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in 2008, 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 Handicap Chase, and Grade Two scorers Deep Purple and Simarian. In the 2009/10 season, Barizan emerged as a top-class juvenile hurdler, winning a Grade One at Punchestown after finishing second in both the JCB Triumph Hurdle and in the Matalan Anniversary 4-Y-O Hurdle at Aintree. Williams enjoyed his best season in terms of winners in 2010/11, with 90 successes and had 89 victories in Britain and Ireland in 2011/12.
State Of Play did him proud in the John Smith’s Grand National – finishing fourth in 2009, third in 2010 and fourth in 2011 before unseating his rider in 2012 when Cappa Bleu ran fourth. 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 licence, saddling over 50 winners in two seasons including the prolific Cannon Bridge, who chalked up nine wins in a single campaign. They have three children William, Isabel and Ellie. Evan is the son of former amateur jockey Rhys Williams. John Smith’s Grand National Record: 2009 State Of Play (4th); 2010 State Of Play (3rd); 2011 State Of Play (4th); 2012 Cappa Bleu (4th); State Of Play (UR 5th); Deep Purple (PU 19th)