BRIAN ELLISON has thanked neighbouring trainers for helping keep stable star Definitly Red’s Cheltenham Gold Cup preparations firmly on track.
Though the horse cantered on Malton’s gallops earlier this week in the snow, Ellison has been reluctant to take any chances so close to the big race.
He’s twice used neighbour Tim Etherington’s indoor school and Definitly Red worked at Richard Fahey’s Musley Bank stables yesterday.
The winner of Doncaster’s Grimthorpe Chase on this weekend a year ago will work again today at Fahey’s yard where the trainer is gearing up for the new Flat season.
Such support is typical of how the whole of racing, and its army of stable staff, has rallied round in the past week in order to keep the disruption and inconvenience to a minimum.
“It’s great that everyone is pulling together,” Ellison told The Yorkshire Post as he contemplates his first runner in steeplechasing’s most prestigious race.
“Definitly Red is flying, he’s in great form. Obviously we’ve got less than two weeks to go.
“We’re taking him to Richard’s gallop again for a bit of work, just to break it up a bit because he’s fit, he’s well and everything.
“After that, we’ll just keep him ticking over. You just wish it was now really.
“He’ll run well and whether he wins or not, he’ll still run a big race.”
Definitly Red will also be a first Gold Cup runner for North Yorkshire-based jockey Danny Cook and owner Phil Martin who hails from Tickhill.
However they will draw comfort from the fact that Tomngerry and Bordeaux Bill both won on the Southwell all-weather yesterday in the colours of Martin’s wife Julie.
Even though there were a host of non-runners because many horses were left snowbound by Storm Emma, the wins were another confidence boost for the Ellision team who harbour legitimate each-way Gold Cup hopes with Definitly Red after the horse galloped to victory in Cheltenham’s Cotswold Chase at the end of January.
Meanwhile Ellison saddles Forst Bihan, another Cheltenham hopeful, in today’s specially arranged ‘jumpers bumpers’ meeting at Newcastle.
Like Southwell’s fixture, it’s an opportunity for National Hunt horses to race on the Flat, though they encounter no obstacles.
“We need to have these meetings. I mentioned it a couple of weeks ago about putting them on. They are a big help,” said Ellison.
Forest Bihan is being primed for the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase, Cheltenham’s concluding two mile chase.
“Basically, he’s getting ready for Cheltenham really and you may as well run for some money,” explained the trainer.
Promising young novice chaser Ballycrystal gets the chance to stretch his legs. “He wants good ground, which is why we haven’t run him so much, but he should be all right on the all-weather,” added Ellison.
Meanwhile, Ellison’s fellow Malton trainer Ruth Jefferson would be unfazed if Waiting Patiently, now unbeaten from six starts over fences, misses the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
The horse is the main danger to defending champion Un De Sceaux after winning the Grade One Ascot Chase last month following a thrilling battle with Colin Tizzard’s veteran Cue Card.
The emotional win came just 24 hours after the funeral of Jefferson’s much respected – and much missed – father Malcolm.
However, Waiting Patiently’s preference for soft ground and his relative inexperience – he’s only seven years of age – are preventing Jefferson and owner Richard Collins from committing to the two mile five furlong race that also features stablemate Cloudy Dream.
“To be honest, we’ve never really seen him as a Cheltenham Festival horse because generally the ground is always on the quicker side and he definitely wants cut in the ground,” she said.
“Even if it’s soft we’d still have to have a think about it because he’s only seven and we don’t want him to have a hard race at Ascot and then Cheltenham and he’s knocked for next season.
“If it comes up good, good to soft, the chances are he won’t run and then it becomes ideal for Cloudy Dream. If it came up soft they’d maybe both run. I’m just not sure it’s the right thing to do. We thought Ascot was his Cheltenham and he won that so we’re happy with where he’s at.”