CHELTENHAM GOLD CUP hopeful Definitly Red is the surprise name among 21 entries for next week’s Malcolm Jefferson Memorial Chase at Kelso.
However, Thursday’s race at Kelso, due to be staged in memory of Jefferson, a much-respected Malton trainer who died from cancer a year ago, depends on the consequences of the equine flu outbreak.
We’re just carrying on as normal – we’ve not been affected. “We’ve just put Definitly Red in to have a look – it might not be on anyway.Brian Ellison
No decision on the sport’s resumption is due to be made until Monday.
Winner of the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, and then the Many Clouds Chase at Doncaster, Definitly Red had been scheduled to have just another racecourse gallop ahead of the Gold Cup.
But Malton-based trainer Brian Ellison wants to keep options open for Danny Cook’s mount, who runs in the colours of leading owner Phil Martin.
“We’re just carrying on as normal – we’ve not been affected,” said Ellison when asked about the tentative entry. “We’ve just put Definitly Red in to have a look – it might not be on anyway.
“He’s fit enough to run if we want him to, and if it’s a small field we’ve now got the option.
“If it looked like being a hard race we’ll probably say no. This is probably his last chance of winning a Gold Cup – we don’t want to jeopardise it.”
Black Corton, Calett Mad, Jannika, Lake View Lad and Jonniesofa – who has not been seen since December 2017 – are also among the entries.
On the same card is the Morebattle Hurdle, in which Alan King has entered his classy chaser Sceau Royal.
In the same Simon Munir and Isaac Souede colours is We Have A Dream, who could make the journey for Nicky Henderson.
Paul Nicholls’s smart juvenile Quel Destin, stablemate Grand Sancy and Harry Fry’s Jolly’s Cracked It are among 17 possibles.
However, former Grand National-winning trainer Kim Bailey played down the likelihood of a swift resumption of racing.
“The AHT (Animal Health Trust) will be snowed under with swabs and bloods, which might make it difficult to race early next week,” he said. “They just could need a few more days to complete all their tests and then hopefully racing will be back on track.
“As we are unaffected, well so far, we are making sure there is Virkon (disinfectant) everywhere and hands, feet and tack are washed regularly. We have yet to feel that we are on a set from Silent Witness, but for how long?
“You have to feel sorry for some people involved in this sport and especially jockeys like David Bass, who are self-employed and no racing means no income.”