BRIAN ELLISON has never shirked a challenge in his life, which is why Forest Bihan makes the long journey from Malton to Exeter for today’s Haldon Gold Cup.
He believes the horse could develop into a top two-mile chaser and today’s test at the Devon track is a trial for next March’s Queen Mother Champion Chase. The race has an illustrious roll call of past winners, including Best Mate, Edredon Bleu and Cue Card, and Ellison is bullish about Danny Cook’s mount.
He was buoyed by the horse’s comeback win at Kelso last month. “He travelled well and jumped well. I think we have a good chance of winning,” Ellison told The Yorkshire Post.
However, Ellison’s concern is the prospect of conceding weight to the Paul Nicholls-trained pair of San Benedeto and Politologue.
All three clashed at Aintree on Grand National day when Politologue stumbled after clearing the last in the lead.
That left Forest Bihan in the lead who, in turn, was caught by the fast finishing San Benedeto.
With Ellison’s mount having to be produced late, it sets up a tantalising renewal that also features Sir Valentino, who won last year’s Haldon Gold Cup under Adrian Heskin, Gary Moore’s Ar Mad and Garde La Victoire from the yard of Philip Hobbs.
“He seems in good form and I think he’s improved over the summer,” added Ellison.
“He was good at Kelso and I definitely think he’s improved for the run.”
That said, Forest Bihan – owned by Tickhill’s Phil Martin – was only narrowly beaten last season by the Malcolm Jefferson-trained Waiting Patiently, who could not have been more impressive when winning the prestigious Colin Parker Chase at Carlisle on Sunday under Brian Hughes.
The significance of this race should not be under-estimated – the 2016 winner was Bristol de Mai who went on to win Saturday’s Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.
While Waiting Patiently is not expected to feature at the BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham on November 18, the six-year-old looked an exciting prospect as he shrugged off a 288-day absence to take this four-runner Listed contest in some style.
“The first two drew a long way clear and he jumped quite well,” said Jefferson’s daughter and assistant Ruth.
“He maybe made one or two little mistakes, but he’ll come on for the run.
“He’s got an entry in the BetVictor, but I wouldn’t say he was definitely going there or not as it’s only two weeks away. We could always look for a race in December and see after that.
“I’m pleased as he picked up where he left off last season, which is what we were hoping for.”
Wuheida will stay in training as a four-year-old with a return to the Breeders’ Cup her main objective.
Charlie Appleby’s filly, owned by Godolphin, landed the Filly & Mare Turf on Saturday to provide jockey William Buick with a first winner at America’s so-called world championship meeting.
“She will have an easy first half of the year, and then we will start working towards Kentucky (Churchill Downs) in the autumn,” said Appleby.