The in-form Malton trainer has identified Wetherby’s bet365 Charlie Hall Chase on November 4 – the West Yorkshire track’s flagship race of the year – as the classy colt’s first objective.
Victorious at Wetherby in the Rowland Meyrick Chase on Boxing Day last year, Definitly Red jumped into Grand National contention when winning Doncaster’s Grimthorpe Chase by a wide margin.
However, Danny Cook’s mount enjoyed no luck in the National. Badly hampered at the infamous Becher’s Brook on the first circuit, the luckless rider’s saddle slipped and the jockey quickly pulled up the horse.
Yet, because the National weights were determined before the Doncaster triumph, April’s race was, potentially Definitly Red’s best chance of National glory, hence the decision by owners Phil and Julie Martin, from Tickhill, to target Cheltenham’s premier race.
No Yorkshire-trianed horse has won the Gold Cup since Jodami prevailed in 1993 for Brandsby’s Peter Beaumont, but this is not deterring the ever optimistic Ellison.
“Definitly Red has done fantastically over the summer. He will go to Wetherby for the Charlie Hall. He is in great form,” said the trainer whose smart two-mile chaser Forest Bihan, also owned by Martin, made a winning return at Kelso on Sunday under the aforementioned Cook.
“That was the Grand National for you. You have got to keep out of trouble. He jumps those fences well enough and he followed a horse that he thought jumped well. He is rated 159 and I don’t think he would have to improve to much to be a Gold Cup horse. We will learn a bit more as to where we are after Wetherby. Gold Cup horses are very hard to get, but hopefully we have got one here.”
Already the Charlie Hall Chase is promising to be a high class renewal. It has been suggested, tentatively, that 2015 Gold Cup hero Coneygree could reappear here – fitness permitting.
Others in the frame include Jonjo O’Neill’s enigmatic More Of That while Colin Tizzard confirmed that 2015 Wetherby hero Cue Card is on track for the £100,000 contest – jump racing’s early season highlight.
Despite a lacklustre run last year, Cue Card won the subsequently Betfair Chase at Haydock before coming to grief at the third last fence in the Gold Cup for the second consecutive year.
Though the 11-year-old Cue Card, one of the most popular horses in racing, owes nothing to connections, retirement appears to be off the agenda – for now.
Trainer Colin Tizzard said: “Cue Card is all lined up to go there (Wetherby).”
If the aforementioned horses line up at Wetherby, it will add to the stature of the race – and the course – ahead of the official opening of the £3.5m Millennium West Stand at next Wednesday’s season-opening fixture.
Though the new facility for owners, and others, has been used throughout the summer, it’s first big test comes next week and course chief executive Jonjo Sanderson told The Yorkshire Post: “So far so good.
“It will get its first proper test next week, and then for the Charlie Hall meeting. We’ve had events on all three floors over the summer and everything had worked well thus far.”
In other racing news, the aforementioned Tizzard has confirmed that Bryan Cooper will become first-choice rider on the horses that leading owner Alan Potts has in training at his Dorset stables.
The announcement comes weeks after the trainer told The Yorkshire Post that there was no truth in the reported link-up before Cooper took to social media to mock the “stupid press”.
“Alan wants to use Bryan Cooper on his English horses. Bryan is a top-class rider and we are more than happy with that decision,” said Tizzard.
Born in Barnsley, Potts and his recently deceased wife Ann saw their green, yellow and red colours carried to Gold Cup glory in March by the brilliant chaser Sizing John.
Trained in Ireland by Jessica Harrington, the champion will continue to be ridden by Robbie Power who has decided to concentrate on his commitments in the Emerald Island than shuttle back and forth across the Irish Sea.
Shabaaby will aim to confirm the huge impression he made at Doncaster when he runs in the Rockingham Stakes at York on Saturday.
The Owen Burrows-trained juvenile bolted up by seven lengths on Town Moor, earning a rating of 109 in the process.
He now takes the next step up the ladder to Listed company and Burrows is happy to remain at six furlong, for the time being.
“Touch-wood, he’ll be going to York on Saturday,” said the Lambourn handler.
“He looked very good at six furlongs at Doncaster. Hopefully he can continue to progress.”