BRIAN ELLISION is hopeful that Definitly Red can finish in the “first four” in today’s Gold Cup, the defining race of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival.
Sixth last year, the Malton trainer believes the 10-year-old will handle conditions at the track provided the going does not become too sticky.
Big race jockey Danny Cook rode Definitly Red on the gallops yesterday and Ellison believes the horse’s most recent run, a surprising second to Captain Redbeard at Kelso last month, could have been a blessing in disguise.
“The ground will be fine if there’s a bit of rain to keep it loose. Danny has sat on him and he’s in great form,” said Ellison who is attempting to train the first Yorkshire winner of the Gold Cup since Jodami prevailed in 1993 for Peter Beaumont.
“He’s probably in the best shape I’ve ever had him. He’s two stone better than Kelso, he just wasn’t ready for that race. It showed us where we were with his fitness. If he is in the first four I’ll be happy with that.”
Owned by Phil and Julie Martin, who live in Tickhill, Definitly Red has already won Wetherby’s Charlie Hall Chase and Aintree’s many Clouds Chase this season. While he is regarded as an outsider in a field headed by defending champion Native River, Ellison, who is seeking his first Festival win, added: “You can pick holes with just about every runner.”
Ellison also saddles Forest Bihan in the Grand Annual Chase, with Cook in the saddle.
Meanwhile, the concluding Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle features Sakhee’s City.
Owned by Jayne and Keith Sivills, trained at Catterick by Phil Kirby and ridden by Tommy Dowson, she represents the same team who enjoyed a fine fourth on Tuesday with Lady Buttons.