A risk worth taking as Eden gets a National winner
EDEN got its own Grand National winner on Saturday when Takingrisks — trained at Greystoke by Nicky Richards and owned by Frank Bird, of Langwathby — raced to victory in the Scottish race at Ayr.
Ridden by Sean Quinlan, who is based at Bolton, near Appleby, the 10-year-old came home three lengths clear at odds of 25-1 netting £122,000 in prizemoney.
Richards was following in the footsteps of his late father, Gordon, who won the Scottish Grand National in 1969 with Playlord and 1990 with Four Trix.
Richards hailed the win as not just a great result for himself and his team at Greystoke but a triumph for the north.
“It shows that if we’re given the right horses we can win these big races,” he said after Takingrisks came home ahead of Eider Chase winner Crosspark.
“Too often we are written off when it comes to big races like this, but we don’t have owners with the same financial clout as many of those in the south.
“I don’t have a quarter of a million to spend on a horse, this one cost €35,000. We bought him at Punchestown four years ago after he had won a point-to-point and he has been a grand horse for his owner, Frank Bird.”
Mr Bird — owner of Langwathby-based Frank Bird Poultry Ltd, admitted he didn’t back the horse as he didn’t want to jinx it. He watched the race on a small screen just outside the weighing room. “He had a wobble at the first fence and the jockey struggled to stop on,” he said. “He then had a little stumble at the last, by which time there was a lot of shouting and jumping up and down from us watching.
“It was my biggest win over jumps, although my late wife, Isobel, had some good wins on the Flat with Mark Johnston (Middleham trainer), including at Newmarket and Epsom. She was the real horse lady.”
Mr Bird, aged 82, has three horses, including Takingrisks, at Greystoke. “One has just come off the Flat (Tartan Bute) and another five-year-old (Taking Flight) is just starting its jumps career,” he said.
Asked whether he would like to see Takingrisks run in the Aintree Grand National, Mr Bird said: “The trainer makes the decisions, but I wouldn’t push for it just for the sake of it. He will run in some nice races at some local tracks.”
Richards’s daughter, Jo, added: “Takingrisks has a lovely temperament — anyone can ride him. Dad bought him as a six-year-old after he had won a point-to-point in Ireland and he’s won over hurdles and fences at Carlisle and won at Ayr a couple of times.
“The Scottish national was a target after he won so well at Carlisle last month with first time cheekpieces.
“We didn’t know at first that we had such a strong stayer on our hands, but over the last 18 months he has won over extreme distances. He will have a holiday now.”
She added that there was no reason why Takingrisks could not have a crack at the Aintree Grand National. “He’s a good jumper and a strong stayer, but you need a lot of luck in that race,” she said.
Nicky added: “I don’t see why he couldn’t be an Aintree horse — he jumps and stays — and although he went on this quick ground (at Ayr), it was heavy when he won at Carlisle.”
Meanwhile, winning jockey Sean Quinlan admitted after the race that he thought it was all over after hitting the first jump.
“At the first I banged into it and thought all chances had gone,” he said. “It was just fear keeping me on — I was hanging out the back door and praying to God that he’d keep me on.
“He travelled superbly — he’s very tough, especially for a veteran. When we hit the line and had won, you fill up inside — it was emotional. To win a prestigious race like this is probably going to be the highlight of my career. I came over from Ireland 14 years ago down south, but I found it difficult and was changing yards, but I put in the work and trainers have come to me. I’m pleased to reward their faith.”
He also paid tribute to his Eden-based agent, Richard Hale, and girlfriend Lizzie Butterworth for their support.