FOR the second time in seven months, Takingrisks was a 20/1 winner of a major handicap chase when he landed the £70,000 Betfair Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle last Saturday.

And he may now be aimed at Aintree next April.

'May' is a small word but lengthy family discussions lay ahead before a final decision is reached about the star Greystoke-trained staying chaser’s participation in this season’s Grand National.

Last Spring, Frank Bird’s courageous galloper outlasted his rivals to win the Scottish Grand National at odds of 25/1 and there are no doubts Takingrisks has all the qualities to make a serious contender for the 'world’s greatest steeplechase.'

His trainer certainly thinks so but, like many other owners concerned about the welfare of their much loved horses, Frank Bird is worried about Takingrisks tackling the daunting National fences.

His son Paul though is keen that the family’s late developer should go to Aintree and the question will be which view will win the day.

As his starting price would suggest, Takingrisks was not a leading market fancy for the Rehearsal but Nicky Richards clearly knew that the gelding was up to the job.

He said after the race that at one moment he felt that “they might have gone a shade too fast for our fellow but he is a very brave horse and he galloped all the way to the line”.

Between the last two fences, the front-running Top Ville Ben, given an admirably positive ride by Tommy Dowson, had the race in safe keeping but particularly on the current testing ground Newcastle’s demanding run in takes a lot of getting and either through exhaustion or idleness in front fine leader was crying out for the line and Takingrisks pounced inside the final 50 yards.

Full of praise for his gallant winner Nicky Richards added: “He has been a late developer improving steadily throughout his life. We never over-race his sort. He is brave, travels kindly, is a sound jumper and stamina is his greatest strength. He will gallop every yard, right to the finish.”

Thinking ahead to the possibility of a shot at the Grand National, Nicky continued: “As his trainer I would like to see him run there but it is up to the owners and I gather that Frank is not a big fan of the race.

“From my point of view I would run him round Aintree. He jumps, travels, is not devoid of speed and his stamina is beyond question.”

Nicky could be double-handed in the National as there have been suggestions that Aintree could be the long term aim for the David Wesley Yates-owned Looking Well who has yet to run this autumn.

One important factor that must not be overlooked about Takingrisk’s Newcastle victory, was the part played by Sean Quinlan who gave the winner the most accomplished of rides.

Sean missed all of the summer and early autumn recuperating from the fall which had left him with serious internal injuries. He has been back in full action for little more than a month and the win on Takingrisks marks a welcome “big race” return.

Sean had been in tremendous form at the time his injury struck and with confidence rightly restored he is poised to extend that excellent sequence.

In a week that saw both Carlisle and Musselburgh fall victim to frost on successive days, Newcastle did well to keep the northern show on the road.

The 50th running of the Fighting Fifth Hurdle provided the shock defeat of the long odds-on shot Buveur d’Air at the hands of Henry Brooke and the Micky Hammond-trained Cornerstone Lad, himself beaten as a novice hurdler at Carlisle but now a first Grade 1 winner for both trainer and jockey.

Initially, it seemed that Barry Geraghty on the favourite had fallen victim to a fine front-running ride by Henry Brooke but, tactically brilliant though it may have seemed, one has to say with hindsight that was simply not the case and had Buveur d’Air not injured himself jumping the penultimate flight he would have been the winner.

Disappointment of the day for Cumbrian racegoers was the defeat of Glenduff in the French Furze Memorial Hurdle. The Nicky Richards-trained novice hurdler had seemed a likely winner on the smart form he had shown when winning on his hurdling debut at Carlisle but that success had come on quickish ground and on the testing underfoot conditions at Newcastle Glenduff did not get home.

He came under pressure down the back straight and was outpaced from three out before being eased by Brian Hughes after taking the last flight. Losses will be regained when Glenduff encounters better going.

Similar sentiments apply to Donald McCain’s Carlisle flat race winner Navajo Pass who had routed his rivals first time out over hurdles at Bangor but in the heavy ground at Newcastle went down by a neck to the Jedd O’Keeffe newcomer Tavius. Navajo Pass still looked the probable winner taking the final flight but was run down close home.Compensation has to come shortly.

Saddest moment of the past week has been the news of Carol Cuthbert’s death in the Cumberland Infirmary after a short illness.

Carol was a pioneer to the modern generation of successful female jumps jockeys. After early experience working and riding out at her father’s Warwick Bridge stable, Carol rode under rules as an amateur before turning professional.

She became the first Cumbrian-based conditional jockey, partnering many of her father Tommy’s horses and winning at Sedgefield and Carlisle on Justice Lea and Victory Boy.

After retiring from the saddle Carol joined forces with her brother David and commanded the office at their Corby Hill motor operation for many a day, her outgoing personality and lovely smile winning many friends and doing wonders for the business.

Her funeral was held at Hayton Church on Tuesday and Carol will be sorely missed by those who knew her both inside and outside the racing fraternity.

The cold snap is expected to have ended by the weekend which will be excellent news for Kelso whose major meeting of the winter is scheduled for Sunday. The feature race at 1.45, is the Persimmons Border Grand National.

Many racegoers at Kelso will be shouting for Jimmy Beaumont's popular veteran Harry The Viking who has made a habit of winning this 4m marathon and is having one more attempt before his retirement.

Sadly, on current evidence, age has finally caught up with this splendid campaigner and a couple of progressive youngsters are preferred.

Lucinda Russell runs her Kelso specialist Big River and perhaps, more importantly, Maurice Barnes is relying on his recent hat-trick scorer Bafana Blue. The latter won his third race on the trot at Ayr midway through November seemingly having the measure of the Martin Todhunter trained Sophie Olivia when that mare came down at the last fence.

Big River was well backed to land a competitive staying handicap chase at the Cheltenham November fixture but ran no sort of a race. He is, however, a much better horse on home territory at Kelso where his record is impressive. He will be a live threat to Bafana Blue but the Barnes star remains on a winning mark and has to be the selection.

Half-an-hour earlier Maurice Barnes has Knockoura running in the prestigious Paris Pike Novices Chase and the Edinburgh Woollen Mills owned gelding will be strongly fancied to initiate a stable double. Knockoura was sent off at odds of 50/1 on his chasing debut at Sedgefield but matched strides with the well regarded Windsor Avenue until after the second last.

Windsor Avenue franked that form when making all to win at Carlisle next time out while Knockora himself trotts up to win his following race at Ayr. He has run well at Kelso over hurdles before now and will be hard to beat over the major obstacles.

Later in the afternoon Cultram Abbey can prove his liking for Kelso by landing the Edinburgh Gin Chase for Nicky Richards. The grey not only reserves his best for Kelso but he also seems to go best first time out.

Finally watch out for Hot Gossip in the penultimate handicap hurdle. Dianne Sayer's lightly raced gelding should be ready to win after two previous runs and the Hackthorpe trainer reckons that Hot Gossip is sure to pay his way this winter.