'He doesn't perform like a pensioner' - Takingrisks rolls back years
It takes plenty to move a tough north country jumps man to the verge of tears – but Nicky Richards can be forgiven for nearly being overcome by emotion.
The most stone-hearted of trainers would be moved at the sight of their hack rolling back the years to thwart a competitive field of handicappers in the £75,000 Sky Bet Chase.
The 12-year-old Takingrisks was the oldest horse in the line-up and went off the 40-1 outsider having managed no better than fourth from two previous outings this season.
Yet the 2019 Scottish Grand National and Rehearsal Chase winner is no back number. Far from it. He knuckled down splendidly under Sean Quinlan in the straight and caught the enterprisingly-ridden Aye Right on the run-in for a length-and-a-quarter victory.
"It's fantastic," said Cumbrian-based Richards, after scoring his first success in a race his father Gordon won with Playlord, Addington Boy and General Command. "That couldn't be better, it's a lovely job.
"I thought he'd run a good race, I promise you. I thought he was as good as anything in the race. Age may be a barrier, a lot of people may think he's getting on a little bit but he doesn't know how old he is. He doesn't perform like an old-age pensioner, does he?
"He got out of the gate lovely and he got into a grand rhythm. Then it started to look like it was going to get into a stamina test down the straight and I just thought 'we're in business now'. That's what he excels at."
Quinlan felt the strong pace played into his mount's hands and said: "Going to three out I thought he'd had a little bit of a blow and that was his running done but from the back of the second-last all he's done is stay. He winged the last and galloped all the way to the line."
The out-and-out stayer had been aimed at the Grand National last year but Richards said: "I think time has maybe slipped him past going for the Grand National but he'll probably go for the Scottish National, that would be the plan.
"It's brilliant. He's won three top-class handicap chases now, he's a lovely horse. He's been a dream horse for his owner Mr Bird and everybody.
"He's my hack and he's a pure gentleman, I hope he'll never leave me."
Ladbrokes Trophy runner-up Aye Right ran another fine race under Callum Bewley, not helped by his jockey dropping his whip after the third-last fence.
"It's cruel to be second," trainer Harriet Graham said. "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 dropped his whip and he's upset but that's racing and there will be a big one in him."
Favourite Cap Du Nord was another two and a half lengths away in third and trainer Christian Williams said: “He ran a great race. I'm delighted. He travelled well and stayed well. I was pleased with him.”
Read more from Saturday's action
Did you know you can bet via the Racing Post mobile app/website? Simply sign in with your favourite bookmaker via the Accounts button and then bet direct from our racecards