Bill Baxter lands Topham for emotional Greatrex

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Times have been tough in many ways for Warren Greatrex, but Bill Baxter emerged through the dark clouds at Aintree to hint at brighter days ahead for the Lambourn trainer.

Greatrex, a four-time Grade 1 winner whose biggest victory came when Cole Harden won what is now the Stayers’ Hurdle at the 2015 Cheltenham Festival, thanked the heavens after a welcome big-race success with a progressive horse having his first run over the National fences.

Plenty of faith had been placed in Bill Baxter, and with the wet weather arriving just in time, he delivered in style under Sam Twiston-Davies.

“This was the horse coming out to put our name on the map,” said Greatrex. “I ride him every day and I’m very associated with him. We had a plan a while back and then he fell at Hereford, but it wasn’t his fault that day and this was the race that was going to suit him as long as the rain came.

“Last night we weren’t going to run and then it rained all morning, so someone is looking down.”

Greatrex has moved stables since he regularly posted 50-plus winners a season. Last term, however, that number dropped to just 13 winners.

His yard was also rocked by the deaths of stable staff Michael Pitt in July 2021 and David Thompson in February.

“I can’t believe it, it means everything,” said Greatrex. “When you’re on a crest of a wave and everything is going well – we were training Grade 1 winners in England and Ireland – and you hit a low, it’s tough. We lost the two lads and that hurt and still hurts now.

“We’re a great team and we’ve got some nice young horses, and hopefully this is the start and will open the gates.”

Given the way Bill Baxter took to the fences, Greatrex could have a future Grand National candidate in the Glassex Holdings-owned seven-year-old.

Twiston-Davies was suitably impressed with the way his mount stuck to his task despite the attentions of a loose horse, who came between him and runner-up Fantastic Lady on the run-in.

“That was some buzz,” the jockey said. “You have a plan when you go out and not often does it come off, but I had a dream run round and he jumped and travelled well.

“The loose horse frightened me because I thought it was an opponent barging between us, and then it was quite handy as he had something to almost race with.”

It was the ideal Grand National warm-up for Twiston-Davies before he rides Our Power, although the rain was not as welcome for that horse.

“Unfortunately the rain wasn’t forecast and they had to water and it kind of goes against Our Power a little bit, but he’s a tremendous horse who tries hard and I’m sure he’ll give his very best,” he said.

Courtesy of Racing Post