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Takingrisks grabs Sky Bet glory for Richards and Quinlan

Takingrisks stayed on stoutly to see off the bold front-running bid of Aye Right in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster.

The 2019 Scottish National hero was sent off at 40-1 having not won since his Rehearsal Chase success last season, but again proved he has stamina in abundance.

Aye Right gave his all once more, just as he had in the Ladbrokes Trophy in which he finished second to Cloth Cap.

He was still in front jumping the last as the favourite, Cap Du Nord, who travelled smoothly throughout before hitting the second last hard, and Takingrisks bore down on him.

As Cap Du Nord began to tire, it was Nicky Richards’ 12-year-old who kept finding more for Sean Quinlan, with Takingrisks claiming it by a length and a quarter with a further two and a half lengths back to Cap Du Nord. Canelo was fourth.

Nicky Richards was thrilled with Takingrisk's victory
Nicky Richards was thrilled with Takingrisk’s victory (Tim Goode/PA)

Richards said: “I thought he’d run a good race.

“I thought he was as good as anything in the race. Age might be a barrier to a lot of people, that he’s getting on a bit, but he doesn’t know how old he is and he doesn’t perform like an old-age pensioner.

“He got out of the gate lovely and got into a grand rhythm. Then it was starting to look like it was going to be a stamina test and I thought ‘we’re in business now’.
“He’s won three top-class handicap chases. He’s a lovely horse.

“I think time has slipped him past for the Grand National to be fair to him. I think he’ll probably go for the Scottish National. That will be the plan.”

Sean Quinlan, pictured after Takingrisk's Scottish National success
Sean Quinlan, pictured after Takingrisk’s Scottish National success (Jeff Holmes/PA)

Quinlan said: “He’s usually very slowly away. I just said to Nicky before we went out there’d be plenty of pace, so I’d get him winging over the first two and let him sit and travel handy.

“They went a good gallop and he was a bit long at the first. He’s taken me everywhere, he’s jumped and travelled. Going to three out, he’s had a bit of a blow and I thought that was his running done now, but from the back of the second last he’s just stayed. He winged the last and stayed on all the way to the line.

“Aye Right was second in a Hennessy and I thought he was the horse to beat. He was in front a long way and was probably waiting for one to come and do him.

“Nicky has done a fantastic job with this horse. Two years ago he won the Scottish National and last year he was going for the Grand National and it was called off.

“The plan was the Scottish National this year, but we thought we’d take a race or two on the way and he’s done it today, which is great.”

Aye Right’s trainer Harriet Graham was left ruing her luck after hitting the bar in another big race.

She said: “It’s cruel to be second, he ran such a cracking race. In the Ladbrokes Trophy he was well beaten, but this time he could have done it.

“I thought for a minute he might just hold on, but he probably needs another two furlongs – he’s an out-and-out stayer.

“Callum (Bewley) dropped his whip and he’s upset, but that’s racing and there will be a big one in him.”

Christian Williams was satisfied with the effort of third-placed Cap Du Nord.

He said: “He ran a great race. I’m delighted. He travelled well and stayed well. I was pleased with him.”

King’s sights long set on Sky Bet Chase for Canelo

Alan King has been eyeing the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster for the improving Canelo ever since his Rowland Meyrick success on Boxing Day.

The JP McManus-owned eight-year-old has always been highly regarded at Barbury Castle Stables, and is now delivering on that promise.

A win at Aintree was followed by a runner-up spot to Cap Du Nord at Newbury, before he beat Snow Leopardess over Christmas.

“He’s done very little wrong this year and has been very progressive since we put the headgear (cheekpieces) on him,” said King.

“He’s improved race for race, and this looked the logical place to go after his win in the Rowland Meyrick.

“That might have been a decent race – he beat the right horse (Snow Leopardess), who had won at Haydock before.

“He’s on 148 now, he travels very well through his races but might not do a whole lot when he hits the front. I’m hoping there’s a bit more to come from him.

“This will be another test, but it looked the obvious place to come after Wetherby.”

Aye Right bids to gain due reward on Saturday for a series of consistent efforts.

Aye Right (right) ran well int he Ladbrokes Trophy to finish second
Aye Right (right) ran well in the Ladbrokes Trophy to finish second (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Trained in the Scottish Borders by Harriet Graham, the eight-year-old was second over an inadequate two miles and a furlong first time out this season to subsequent Old Roan winner Nuts Well.

He was then a very creditable third to Cyrname in the Charlie Hall Chase before posting arguably a career-best effort when second in the Ladbrokes Trophy to Cloth Cap.

Since then, Aye Right has run in a jumpers’ bumper at Newcastle – where he showed up well for a long way before finishing sixth – but Graham does not want the ground to get any softer.

Graham told Sky Sports Racing: “We’ve been hit hard by the weather up here – we’ve only just got rid of the snow, but James Armstrong at Newcastle has been helpful, (so Aye Right) galloped there the other day and ran in a jumpers’ bumper.

“He’s a very consistent horse and he’s easy to train. He’s always jig-jogging and loves to go out. We sometimes feel we do too much with him, but Callum (Bewley) said he couldn’t pull him up the other day – he nearly went round again.

“We’ll not run if it gets heavy, but the forecast is much more positive now. Earlier in the week, I didn’t think we’d be running. In an ideal world I’d have liked it to be good to soft – and probably over another three furlongs.”

Cap Du Nord has been all the rage for this race all week as Christian Williams attempts to win a contest he landed as a jockey on Big Fella Thanks in 2009.

Cap Du Nord was an easy winner at Newbury but has gone up in the weights
Cap Du Nord was an easy winner at Newbury but has gone up in the weights (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

A winner at Newbury in November, Cap Du Nord then chased home Royale Pagaille at Kempton over Christmas – form which continues to be well advertised.

The winner scored in even easier fashion at Haydock last weekend to be talked of as a Gold Cup candidate – while the third Double Shuffle, 19 lengths behind Cap Du Nord, won next time out.

Despite the handicapper raising Cap Du Nord twice since his initial reassessment, he is 3lb well-in because this was an early closing race.

“We thought it would be competitive. But it’s good prize-money, and I think the track will suit our horse,” said Williams.

“It’s nice to be in a feature race on a Saturday. It’s great to have a horse on the upgrade with a chance.

“Cap Du Nord could go for the cross-country race at Cheltenham, along with Potters Corner. I’ll speak to the owner. We’ll see how we get on on Saturday.

“There’s a chance he could get in the Grand National. We might go straight there, or we could use the cross-country race at Cheltenham for him.”

Trainer Olly Murphy has always had a high opinion of The Butcher Said, but he fears the ground may be too testing this weekend for him to show his best.

The Butcher Said might not enjoy the testing ground
The Butcher Said may not enjoy the testing ground (David Davies/PA)

“I think he’s well capable of winning a nice handicap,” said Murphy.

“I’m not sure he wants it as testing as it’s going to be – but he’s in good form, and it’s worth a lot of money.

“He’d have an each-way chance if he got the rub of the green and things went his way.”

Give Me A Copper (red) won the Badger Beer Trophy last season
Give Me A Copper (red) won the Badger Beer Trophy last season (Steven Paston/PA)

Paul Nicholls runs Give Me A Copper, who is part-owned by Sir Alex Ferguson.

“He hasn’t been the easiest to train and made a very pleasing return from a year off when keeping on stoutly to run Rocky’s Treasure close at this track last month,” Nicholls told Betfair.

“Doncaster suits him well – he handles the ground, and we know he is a proper stayer. Give Me A Copper is in serious order at the moment, which is key to his performance. When he is right, he is a good horse.”

The Nick Williams-trained One For The Team and Philip Hobbs’ Musical Slave are others among the market leaders.

Williams sets out Sky Bet Chase aim for Cap Du Nord

Cap Du Nord is on target to head for Doncaster’s Sky Bet Chase at the end of this month.

Christian Williams’ improving eight-year-old was a good winner at Newbury on his penultimate outing, before having to settle for second behind the impressive Royal Pagaille at Kempton over Christmas at Kempton.

He finished 19 lengths clear of the third horse, but had no answer to Venetia Williams’ winner – who has since been entered for the Cheltenham Gold Cup following a 14lb rise in the weights.

Cap Du Nord went up 4lb, and Williams is hoping he runs well enough at Doncaster on January 30 to get himself high enough up the weights for a run in the Grand National.

“Doncaster was the aim before Kempton really – we just didn’t want to wait eight weeks between Newbury and Doncaster,” said Williams.

“He’s quite a sturdy horse so eight weeks would have been too long to wait.

“When I was riding myself I rode Big Fella Thanks in the Kempton race – he unseated me on the second circuit when I felt we’d nearly have won and then we went to Doncaster and won, so I always had that in the back of my mind.

“Our horse is fairly adaptable regards the ground. We thought he wanted better ground after Newbury, but I think he’s fine on most because he’s run well on very bad ground before. I just think he’s more the finished article now.

“He could have bumped into a 160-horse at Kempton. He won very well, but we made a bit of a race of it, and the pair were miles clear.

“We bought Cap Du Nord off a good friend of mine, and he’s always threatened to be a really good horse. Before now, while we’d had some fun, he was still lowly rated. He’s finally shown this year he might be a decent one, which is nice because he’s for a good, supportive owner (Ian Marmion).”

Should Doncaster go to plan, Williams may be adding another string to his Aintree bow along with last season’s Welsh National hero Potters Corner.

“He’s rated 137 now. If he goes and wins this he could be a proper National horse, and that would give Jack (Tudor, jockey) something to think about with Potters Corner as well,” added Williams.

“I think about 144 almost guarantees a run at Aintree, so you think he’d go up 7lb if he wins at Doncaster.”

Harriet Graham looking towards Doncaster with Aye Right

Aye Right is likely to have his next outing in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster on January 30.

Harriet Graham’s stable star has put up three meritorious efforts this season, finishing second to subsequent Old Roan winner Nuts Well at Kelso, coming home third in the Charlie Hall and most recently putting up a career-best effort to be second in the Ladbrokes Trophy.

Graham has mooted the Scottish National as an end-of-season target and with the recent cold snap holding him up slightly, an outing in Warwick’s Classic Chase has been discounted.

“He’s entered in the Doncaster race at the end of the month and that would be the immediate plan,” said Graham.

“We’ve had a little bit of a stop because we’re frozen solid up here (Jedburgh in the Scottish Borders) with two inches of snow, but he’s fit and he’ll be ready for that as it is supposed to warm up next week.

“He’s in really good order. Whether we go to Cheltenham or not is debateable and the Scottish Grand National has been mentioned.

“We had been going to go to Warwick next week, but I haven’t been able to get the work into him so we won’t enter for that now.

“The timing of the Doncaster race is good for those with spring targets, it is when the National horses are looking for a run.”

Alan King’s Rowland Meyrick winner Canelo, Brian Ellison’s Definitly Red, Paul Nicholls’ Give Me A Copper, the Venetia Williams-trained Royale Pagaille and Sandy Thomson’s rejuvenated Yorkhill are among 52 entries for the Town Moor contest.