They’ve had this four mile-plus marathon in mind ever since Baywing landed the Grade Two Towton Novices Chase at Wetherby just over a year ago.
No trip is long enough for the chaser, provided the ground is heavy, and connections took full advantage of a competitive handicap mark.
Midlands National winner Milansbar attempted to make all in this stamina test, but he struggled to defy a much higher handicap mark in the final mile.
It left Sue Smith’s gutsy Hainan, prominent throughout under Danny Cook, heading the field into the home straight.
However, as he plugged on gallantly, West Of The Edge had been smuggled into contention by Will Kennedy while the aforementioned Day was going best of all on Baywing.
The pair were battling it out at the last but while West Of The Edge got in tight, Baywing absolutely pinged it and shot clear, winning by four lengths.
Former winner Portrait King stayed on to pip Hainan in the race for third. Favourite Vinnie Lewis was pulled up.
This was Baywing’s first victory since his Towton success and continues a season to remember for Cumbria-based Richards, who had already enjoyed a number of notable successes courtesy of Simply Ned and Guitar Pete.
“He got into a good rhythm, jumped well and has seen it out well,” said the winning trainer. “After he won the Towton, though it was a good race to win at the time, it sort of limited our options to get experience into him. I’ve always thought he was a talented horse.
“Since then we’ve worked away well, we’ve had this race in our minds for a while and it’s great when it works out. Soft ground is important to him. It might be that we look at the Midlands National or something.
“We’ll just see, we’re in no rush and he’s won a nice prize today. These are the ones you want to win and this season we’ve been lucky enough to have won a few.”
However the ground-dependent Baywing, who does not hold an entry in the Grand National, is likely to face a significant hike in the handicap following this success.
Meanwhile a thrilling novice chase at Newcastle saw Lady Buttons return to winning ways for Catterick trainer Phil Kirby and jockey Adam Nicol.
Though she holds an entry at the Cheltenham Festival in the two-and-a-half-mile mares hurdle, Kirby believes his stable star needs to race over the minimum trip of two miles to be seen at her best. After twice running with credit in Ireland this season, he said he’s not adverse to make a third trip across the Irish Sea if he can find a suitable race.
There was also consolation for the aforementioned Smith and Cook combination when Joke Dancer took handicap hurdle honours.
Warriors Tale, beaten on the line in last month’s Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster by Sue Smith’s Wakanda, has been purchased by leading owner Trevor Hemmings.
The horse, trained by Paul Nicholls, holds a Grand National entry and Hemmings is keen to win the iconic Aintree race for a fourth time following the victories of Hedgehunter, Ballabriggs and Many Clouds.
He could also be represented in the big race by Vicente, a two-time winner of the Scottish National, and Vintage Clouds if the latter makes the 40-runner cut.
Owner Jean Bishop celebrated her first winner of the season after the Colin Tizzard-trained Kings Walk won Kempton’s handicap hurdle.
Bishop, who has enjoyed so such success with horses like Cue Card, has another nice prospect on her hands courtesy of the winner who was ridden by Harry Cobden.
Cobden, the champion conditional, later completed a double on the Paul Nicholls-trained Favorito Buck’s. He then completed a weekend to remember by landing yesterday’s Grade Two National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell on Old Guard, the horse that launched his career when landing Cheltenham’s Greatwood Hotel in 2015.
Old Guard could reappear in Cheltenhamn’s Stayers’ Hurdle. “He’s a dude. He owes me nothing – I think I won the Greatwood on him on my 10th ride under rules! He’s a little star,” said the jockey.