LORCAN Williams was the toast of Pembrokeshire at the Cheltenham Festival as he rode Porlock Bay to a thrilling win on the line in the St. James’s Place Festival Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase.

The 16-1 shot jumped into a narrow lead at the second-last fence and was pressed strongly by 2-1 favourite Billaway up the run-in – getting the verdict by just a short head after studying the photo.

Porlock Bay is usually ridden by his trainer Will Biddick, the most prolific winner of point-to-points in the UK and a winning rider at the Festival.

But with amateurs unable to ride due to coronavirus restrictions, he booked Williams for the ride.

Biddick had faith in Porlock Bay, a French recruit he rode himself to success in a point last November, before protocols forced him to hand over the reins to Williams for his prep run at Wincanton.

The conditional jockey, from Amroth near Saundersfoot, proved an able substitute as he got the better of Paul Townend on the Willie Mullins-trained Billaway, who also placed second 12 months ago.

“I didn’t really want to get my hopes up, I’m too much of a realist, I know it sounds negative, but I just hoped that the line was on our side, and lucky for us it was,” said Williams after the race.

“The relief was amazing, it’s what you work for, this day is amazing and it’s what I have dreamed of as a kid watching the races – there’s so many people I would like to thank, I just can’t believe it.

“I was sat on the sofa when Will called, and he goes ‘we’re going to win the Fox Hunters at Cheltenham.

"I didn’t know at this stage that amateurs were not going to be able to ride, but it’s a dream come true.”

Williams added: “He came alive when I gave him daylight, and we were probably going too well.

"I didn’t want to go for him too soon up the hill, it’s quite punishing, but I knew we were going well.

“He jumped the last really well, and he was just having a bit of a wander up the run-in, because it’s quite daunting.

"I always felt he was doing enough, but the line kept getting further and further away!

“I wasn’t really sure who won, to be honest, I was fairly confident, but in this sort of situation I try not to get my hopes up too much.

"I always felt I was doing enough, and so I was really pleased to have won it.”

Lorcan’s previous biggest victory was aboard Truckers Lodge in the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter last year.

His career is definitely heading in the right direction, and being part of the Paul Nicholls team can only aid his cause.

Lorcan started his riding career in Welsh pony racing and point to pointing, and he has been with the 11-times champion trainer since he was 16.