TOP staying steeplechaser Definitly Red is set to concede age – and weight – to his younger rivals when he continues his Randox Health Grand National build-up at Haydock this Saturday.
Malton trainer Brian Ellison had been considering a race over hurdles for the popular 11-year-old, the reigning Yorkshire horse of the year, ahead of the National in April.
However Ellison, and owner Phil Martin, a retired Tickhill businessman, have settled on the Peter Marsh Chase, a Grade Two race that has been a noted trial for both the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Grand National in the past.
The 11-year-old has won two Many Clouds Chases at Aintree, the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham and the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in November 2018. However this record means he will be burdened with 11st 10lb – six pounds more than Harry Fry’s Acting Lass who is second in the weights.
When the ground is heavy and sloppy that’s fine for him, he gets through that no problem – when he tends to struggle is when the ground is tacky.Brian Ellison
“He runs at Haydock at the moment,” said Ellison who is, however, on weather watch. “When the ground is heavy and sloppy that’s fine for him, he gets through that no problem – when he tends to struggle is when the ground is tacky.
“They tend to get through the ground at Haydock when it’s heavy – well – hopefully he will. He’s in good form and we’re using it as a prep for the Grand National. After this he might go to Kelso at the end of February.”
With regular rider Danny Cook likely to partner Sue Smith’s Vintage Clouds, Ellison has booked North Yorkshire jockey Henry Brooke
Brooke was fourth on Definitly Red in last month’s Becher Chase over the National fences and Ellison is keen for the partnership to develop in case Cook is committed to ride for Smith in the National.
Meanwhile in-form Scottish trainer Sandy Thomson believes the stamina test of the three mile-plus Peter Marsh Chase will be perfect for Geronimo.
The lightly-raced nine-year-old proved his liking for marathon distances when winning over almost three and a half miles at Ayr last season.
Geronimo was pulled up in the Scottish National on a sound surface in April, but scored on his return to action at Newcastle last month over just two and a half miles – with heavy ground no issue.
Thomson is therefore hoping for a big run over just short of three and a quarter on Saturday.
The Berwickshire trainer said: “Geronimo is in good nick, and the Peter Marsh Chase is the target. He has come out of Newcastle really well, and this race has been the plan since.
“It was great to win over a trip that some people said would be too short for him last time. But we are looking forward to the Peter Marsh Chase and hope the ground, coupled with the distance, will really suit.”
Meanwhile Navajo Pass is likely to wait for the JCB Triumph Trial at Cheltenham on Saturday week week rather than take on his elders at Haydock.
Donald McCain’s four-year-old was a gutsy winner of the Grade Two Summit Juvenile Hurdle at Doncaster before Christmas.
He holds an entry in the Sky Bet Supreme Trial Rossington Main Novices’ Hurdle on Saturday – and while testing ground is no issue to him normally, McCain is not keen on entering all-age novice company in such conditions.
British Horseracing Authority chief executive Nick Rust will step down at the end of the year after nearly six years leading racing’s governing body and regulator.
Rust, who lives in Yorkshire, signalled his departure in a message to staff in which he cited the issue of horse welfare as a significant success.
“The industry’s Horse Welfare Board is finalising an ambitious strategy for further improvement of racing’s exceptional standards of care for our horses,” said Rust who co-owns horses in training at Micky Hammond’s stables in Middleham. “For me, it will be a landmark moment after an unrelenting focus on this issue over the past few years.
“I’ll begin the process of implementing the plan to deliver the BHA’s part of the strategy, but given my decision, it’s the right time for someone else to pick up the challenge of delivering on these ambitions through a programme of work we expect to take five years or more.”
Yesterday’s twilight meeting at Chelmsford had to be abandoned after five races due to adverse weather conditions.
Exeter had earlier abandoned its scheduled six-race card because of waterlogging.
Today’s card at Plumpton will be subject to an 8am raceday inspection as will the one at Newbury, after plenty of rain hit the track on Monday and Tuesday, with more expected.
Further rain is expected before it is forecast to ease off from around 7am.