Evan Williams, 51, might have started off as a farmer but this takes nothing away from his aptitude as a racehorse trainer. Early flagbearers included 2008 Charlie Hall winner State of Play, Cappa Bleu and 2009 Peterborough Chase and 2009 Charlie Hall winner Deep Purple. High Chimes won the Kim Muir at the 2008 Cheltenham Festival and Firebird Flyer continued Evan’s association with talented chasers by winning the 2016 Midland Grand National. These have been followed more recently with the likes of talented two mile-hurdler Silver Streak and Welsh National winner Secret Reprieve. Yard legend Coole Cody has been a tremendous servant, winning the Paddy Power Gold Cup in 2020 and the December Gold Cup the following year, as well as finishing last season on a high winning at the 2022 Festival.
Evan Williams with Coole Cody
Photo Credit: Great British Racing
Evan trains on Aberogwrn Farm in the Vale of Glamorgan. The foot and mouth epidemic during the 2000-01 season decimated the family farm, so Evan diversified into training. One year later, he was champion point-to-point trainer. For the 2003-4 season, Evan took out his professional trainer’s license and hasn’t looked back since. He sent out his first winner on Classic Trials Day at Sandown in April 2006, ridden by Mick Kinane – who also followed up there again in June, this time ridden by Ryan Moore.
All members of the Williams Family help out with the seventy racehorses in training. Isabel, who is a conditional jockey; Eleanor, who is an amateur and son William, who runs the office and plays rugby. Wife and mother Catherine runs everything else! They have three pet dogs – a Jack Russell Dotty, whippet Nancy and a whippet-cross Franco as well as a small number of cattle.
Did you have a horsey childhood?
Yep, very horsey and lots of farming too. There were always ponies, horses and ‘pointers around us.
Were you a jockey?
I was very much a farmer-point-to-point rider – very agricultural. [Evan actually rode over 200 winners!]
Which jockeys did you look up to when you were younger?
When I was younger, I looked up to Arthur Stephenson and Chris Grant.
Mary Reveley and Peter Niven were the trainers whose yards always fascinated me by having lots of winners.
How did you start training?
I started training ‘pointers and decided to have a license when all ‘pointing stopped due to foot and mouth.
What is the best aspect to training racehorses?
I’ve always been a lover of animals. As a farmer, I loved cows and now, as a trainer, I love dealing with the horses.
And the worst?
The injuries to the horses and jockeys.
What are your best days as a trainer so far?
When we’re lucky – any day we have a winner is a good day.
Chepstow – it’s a great old course.
The Welsh Grand National meeting at Chepstow.
Photo Credit: Horse & Hound
What is the best advice you were given?
Loads and loads of people gave me advice but a famous trainer of racehorses once said to me, ‘not to let your left hand know what your right hand is doing’.
Favourite drink: I’m a ‘teapot’ – I drink loads of tea.
Favourite meal: I’m partial to anything and I’m no fussy. But I do love seafood with a glass of white wine.
Favourite holiday destination: Anywhere I can fly to from Cardiff, like Mallorca – though once a year is enough.
Other interests: As long as I’m training racehorses and playing around with a few cattle then I’m a happy man. I don’t need to do anything else.
*Many thanks to Old Gold Racing for the help in securing this interview. They published it first in their fabulous newsletter Racing Weekly. To sign up, go to https://mailchi.mp/2f6ba62d6182/racing-weekly-lead-capture