BRIAN ELLISON’S highly-promising Windsor Avenue will bid to extend the unbeaten start to his chasing career at either Ascot or Doncaster this month.
The Malton trainer has earmarked the December Novices’ Chase at Doncaster, over almost three miles on December 14, or the Noel Novices’ Chase at Ascot the following Friday over two furlongs shorter. The seven-year-old, owned by Phil and Julie Martin, has won both his starts this season, easily dispatching the 151-rated Ballymoy when conceding weight at Carlisle last time out.
It was a performance which prompted former Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning jockey Andrew Thornton, a pundit on ITV Racing, to name Windsor Avenue as his National Hunt horse to follow in the 2019-20 campaign.
“He’ll go to either Doncaster or Ascot – both Grade Twos,” said Ellison. “He beat a nice horse at Carlisle and has already got a rating of 153 – which is to be expected, because he beat a horse rated 151 by 12 lengths, giving him 5lb.
“We always thought he was very good – which is why we weren’t bothered about taking the other horse on, despite it looking like he had it all to do at the ratings.”
Ellison will assess the likely opposition before his final decision on Windsor Avenue’s next assignment.
He added: “It will depend on who is in which race and what the ground is like.
“Obviously Doncaster is struggling at the moment – he wouldn’t run on fast ground, but it won’t be that for a while.
“I think Doncaster is two-seven and Ascot two-five, so we’ll have a look at both.
“He’s not a slow horse. (Jockey) Brian (Hughes) said at Carlisle he felt like he was only hacking – but he’ll stay three miles, no problem. Even his Sedgefield form is strong – the second and third have both come out and won. Along with Sam Spinner, he looks the best staying novice in the North.”
Meanwhile, Shades Of Midnight may return in the spring if he recovers from the leg problem that has kept him off the track since he won the Rendlesham Hurdle at Haydock in February under Middleham jockey Henry Brooke.
As well as winning the Grade Two stayers’ prize on Merseyside, he had earlier finished second to Paisley Park there and was also successful in a novice chase at Kelso. Trainer Sandy Thomson, who is based in Berwickshire, said: “He got a touch of a leg when he won the Rendlesham. We’re hopeful to get a spring campaign out of him.
“He’s back in work now and we’ll re-scan it at the beginning of January – and hopefully he’ll get the all-clear, and we’ll go from there.
“He’ll probably just stay over hurdles.”
Native River’s participation in Saturday’s Virgin Bet Price Boosts Many Clouds Chase at Aintree on Saturday could be determined by the ground.
Colin Tizzard’s 2018 Gold Cup winner put up a brave defence of his crown in March when fourth behind the Willie Mullins-trained Al Boum Photo.
His big aim in the first half of this season in the Welsh National at Chepstow on December 27, a race he won in 2016, but connections are contemplating the Aintree race won by Yorkshire’s Definitly Red in both 2017 and 2018.
“The ground being softer this year has helped, but it would need to be fairly soft for him to run so it’s still up in the air,” said owner Gareth Broome.