The Aintree Grand National “maybe the plan” for Takingrisks after the Greystoke-trained 12-year-old became the oldest horse to win the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster.
Trained by Nicky Richards, owned by Frank Bird, of Langwathby, and ridden by jockey Sean Quinlan, who lives near Appleby, Takingrisks was sent off as a 40-1 outsider to land the £75,000 prize pot – but the horse proved he was no also ran by galloping all the way to the line to reel in long-time leader Aye Right.
Formerly known as the Great Yorkshire Chase, it is a race steeped in history and one which Nicky’s father, Gordon, had won with Playlord, Addington Boy and General Command.
“It was a lovely race to win – a famous old race – so it was nice to do it, especially for a good local man as well,” Richards told the Herald.
He said the horse, a proven four-miler as a former Scottish Grand National winner, wanted every inch of three miles over which the Sky Bet was run, and the soft ground made it very much a stamina test.
The horse was given a “grand ride”, said Richards. “The further they went, the stronger he was going to start to go, and that is what proved to happen.
“Nothing happens without my staff here. They work very hard and they continue to do so. In this weather, it makes long hard days for them.”
Last year, the Grand National was “sort of the plan” for Takingrisks, before coronavirus restrictions intervened to cancel the race, and Richards has hinted it “maybe the plan this year”.
“He is going to be entered for it and we will see how he is going up to the race,” he said.
Of Takingrisks, Richards said: “He is like an old guy in the disco on a Saturday night. Everybody says ‘what’s that mad old bugger doing there’ and he’s still dancing about.
“He has been a very good horse and still is a very good horse – that was a very good race the other day.
“He is a grand horse, he has given Frank and and all his family a lot of fun and a lot of thrills, I’d say.”
Not only did he win the 2019 Scottish Grand National at odds of 25-1, he also won the Betfair Rehearsal Handicap Chase that year, after being sent off at 20-1.
Although the horse’s owner, Frank Bird, was not able to be at Doncaster, he was able to watch the big race on television.
“It was great and I think Frank really enjoyed it,” said Richards. “I would say he was over the moon. It was like a hotline into his place, ringing him up after the race, congratulating him. Brilliant really.”
He added: “I am always in the mood for a few big Saturday winners. They are very hard to get, I promise you, but they are great when it happens. We are trying to work our way towards the next one, hopefully.”
Frank’s son, Paul, who is currently in Dubai where his son, also called Frank, is in motor racing action, said: “I was chuffed to bits with him (Takingrisks) and so glad he ran an awesome race as all my friends back him when he runs! It was a relief when Sean got him home in fine style.
“Nicky and all the staff at Greystoke do such an amazing job with him. It looks like the next stop is Aintree and the big one in April.”