Takingrisks carrying hopes of another National hero for Greystoke

Nicky Richards reports Takingrisks to be in top shape ahead of the Randox Grand National at Aintree on Saturday.

Takingrisks, who bids to become the first 12-year-old to win the world’s greatest steeplechase since Amberleigh House in 2004, landed the Scottish National in 2019 and sprang a 40-1 surprise in the Sky Bet Handicap Chase at Doncaster in January.

The trainer’s father, the late Gordon Richards, won the Grand National twice with Lucius in 1978 and Hallo Dandy in 1984. Richards has taken a leaf out of his book by building National-style fences to give Takingrisks an example of what to expect on the big day.

Takingrisks on the way to glory in the Scottish National
Takingrisks on the way to glory in the Scottish National (Jeff Holmes/PA)

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“He’s done everything we’ve wanted the old lad to do. He’s ready and we’re all looking forward to it,” said the Greystoke handler.

“We built three fences. He had a look the other morning and he’s had a proper go at them. We’ve done what my father used to do.”

Richards confirmed Takingrisks’ regular partner Sean Quinlan will be in the saddle at the weekend.

“Sean gets on grand with him and is having a good season,” he added.

“We’ve a good horse in top condition and a confident jockey riding him. He knows the old boy, so let’s see how we get on.”

Hallo Dandy was a famous winner of the Grand National for the late Gordon Richards
Hallo Dandy was a famous winner of the Grand National for the late Gordon Richards (PA)

The ground on all three courses at Aintree was described as good to soft, good in places on Tuesday afternoon, with further watering planned.

Clerk of the course Sulekha Varma said: “We have gone good to soft, good in places on all three courses and are watering again today. The Mildmay and Hurdle courses will receive between three and five millimetres of irrigation, while we will put another six millimetres on the Grand National course.

“At the end of today we will come to a decision about what we are going to do tomorrow. I am sure we will be doing some watering again tomorrow as we aim to begin the Randox Grand National Festival with good to soft ground on Thursday.

“I am very pleased with how Aintree is looking. There is fantastic grass cover and walking the Grand National course today it feels pretty much like perfect ground.

“There are a few areas where a little more watering is needed to make it good to soft and then we will be all set.”

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.

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“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.”

Nicky Richards sets sights on Scottish National for Takingrisks

Nicky Richards intends to work back from a second outing in the Scottish Grand National with former winner Takingrisks.

The Greystoke handler will once again target the Grade Three prize at Ayr in April with the 12-year-old, having saddled him to victory in the 2019 renewal of the race.

After failing to complete on his seasonal return at the Scottish track, Takingrisks underwent a wind operation before finishing fourth on his most recent start in the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle

Richards said: “The main aim is to try to get him back to the Scottish National in good form. The old lad seems to be bonny at the moment.

“We were hoping to run him at Ayr the other day, but the meeting was called off, so we are now scratching our heads what to do with him.

“I would run him tomorrow if there was a suitable race.”

Trainer Nicky Richards
Trainer Nicky Richards (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

A tilt at next month’s Eider Chase has not been ruled out by Richards, although it is far from certain he will go for the Newcastle marathon.

He said: “He needs a test of stamina, so it is no good sending him to Kempton or somewhere like that. He needs two or three runs before the Scottish National, though.

“The Eider is a gruelling race and it can knock the edge right off a horse. He would prefer better ground and I’m not sure running him over four miles at Newcastle is the right thing.

“We may have to go there and I suppose if he won the race, it would be great.”

One thing Richards will not be doing is switching Takingrisks back to hurdles given his below-par efforts over the smaller obstacles following his Scottish National and Rehearsal Chase triumphs.

He added: “I did toy with the idea of running him over hurdles, but I’ve done that a couple of times before and the old boy didn’t enjoy it.

“He wants to be enjoying things at his age and we need to get him firing on all cylinders before the Scottish National.”