NORTH Yorkshire trainer Brian Ellison has confirmed that a second crack at the Cheltenham Gold Cup will be the number one objective for stable star Definitly Red this season.
The diminutive nine-year-old was a creditable sixth to mudlark Native River in this year’s renewal after being inconvenienced by the heavy and tacky ground at the Cotswolds venue.
Pulled up in the 2017 Grand National after a melee at Becher’s Brook, connections have been contemplating another tilt at the iconic Aintree race.
However they have now opted to go down the Gold Cup route after Definitly Red became the first Yorkshire-trained horse to win Wetherby’s feature Charlie Hall Chase earlier this month.
Now the horse will bid to claim back-to-back victories in the Grade Two Rewards4Racing Many Clouds Chase at Aintree on December 8.
The winner of 13 out of 26 starts, the horse has been a standard-bearer for regular rider Danny Cook, Tickhill-based owners Phil and Julie Martin and the aforementioned Ellison whose Malton stables are now widely regarded as one of the foremost dual purpose yards in the country.
“Definitly Red will go for the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree next. I’ve been happy with him since Wetherby and he seems in good form,” he said.
“The ground was not ideal for him at Wetherby, but he still went and won on ground which he didn’t like. He probably just needed that run as well and he will improve a lot for it.
“I’d imagine the Gold Cup will be the plan for him again, all being well.
“He is a horse with a really good stride and he couldn’t handle that ground in it last year.”
Meanwhile reigning Gold Cup hero Native River is set to line up in Kempton’s King George VI Chase on Boxing Day.
Trained by Colin Tizzard, champion jockey Richard Johnson’s mount was second to the rejuvenated Bristol De Mai in Haydock’s Betfair Chase – the first Grade One race of the 2018-19 season.
Unseasonably quick ground, and modified fences which were larger and more challenging than anticipated, did not play to the strengths of Native River who was galloping flat out from the start of the three mile race.
However owner Garth Bloom said last night: “I was very pleased with him on Saturday. I don’t think any of the horses jumped those big fences as fluently as they can. He flew some of them, but put down just occasionally.
“Where he can sometimes gain a half length with his jumping, he wasn’t doing that – because he seemed to be jumping up in the air rather than flying them – but I was delighted. Bristol De Mai seems almost unbeatable there –and at least we got it down to four lengths!
“I don’t think the course plays to his strengths, so he acquitted himself well. We’d have been delighted to have won the race, but he put everything in and never lets us down.
“If he goes to Kempton and puts up a similar performance as we build up to the Gold Cup we’ll be happy.
“He ran all right in the Feltham (Kauto Star) there as a novice. But he wasn’t the horse he is now, and it was partly human error that day because we held him up – we ride him a lot differently now.
“I think you’ve still got to be a fair stayer to win the King George. Because they tend to get racing a long way out, it brings stamina into play – it also tends to suit those who race prominently.”
Bloom added: “He hasn’t been out of the first three over fences. In fact he’s won 11 of his 22 and been out of the frame only three times in his life – and one of those was a fall. He’s the horse of a lifetime.”