Brian Ellison says the ground will be key to Definitly Red’s chances in today’s Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock.
The Malton trainer says the 11-year-old – the current Yorkshire horse of the year – is rarely seen at his best when the ground is sticky or tacky.
Owned by Phil and Julie Martin, Definitly Red is due to carry top weight of 11st 10lb as he continues his build-up for a tilt at the Randox Health Grand National in April.
The horse safely negotiated the Grand National fences when fourth in last month’s Becher Chase at Aintree under Henry Brooke and a second tilt at the world’s most famous steeplechase is very much on the agenda.
“Last year we tried to keep him fresh for the Gold Cup.
“We took him up to Kelso for a two-horse race, but it didn’t work out.
“This year we’re aiming at the National and he’ll run here and might head up to Kelso before Aintree,” said Ellison.
“We’ve taken him to the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham before, but that’s a hard slog and we thought he’d be better off in a handicap.
“He ran well in the Becher, he can carry big weights and he can go through this sort of ground better than if it’s tacky.”
Former Grand National-winning trainer Sue Smith saddles the enigmatic Vintage Clouds – the mount of Danny Cook – in a race where Welsh trainer Evan Williams is bullish about the chances of Prime Venture.
With the trainer’s daughter Isabel Williams claiming 7lb, Prime Venture will carry less than 10st on Merseyside and the Llancarfan handler felt it was too good an opportunity to pass up.
“It wouldn’t be the normal thing to do – running one so quick after a race like the Welsh Grand National – but he does seem to have come out of it bouncing,” said Williams.
“He’s fresh and happy and he’s at the right at end of the weights, so we’re keen to give it a go. It might come too quick, but that would be the only negative.”
Ellison also saddles the promising Windsor Avenue in the Patrick Coyne Memorial Altcar Novices’ Chase.
Having won his first two outings over fences very impressively, he stepped up to three miles last time out for a Grade Two at Doncaster but was no match for Sam Spinner. It later transpired he returned sick.
“I think it was a case of both the trip and he wasn’t quite right at Doncaster,” said Ellison. “He’s prone to not scoping quite right so we have to keep an eye on him, he did it last year as well so we have to keep on top of him. He won’t mind the ground.”
Nick Bannister has been appointed the new chairman of Haydock Park in succession to Lord Daresbury.
The 60-year-old, who takes up his duties today, is a true racing enthusiast whose colours were carried to Cheltenham Festival glory in 2002 by the Peter Beaumont-trained Hussard Collonges.
He is currently director of The Coniston Hotel, Country Estate and Spa in Skipton while his eldest son, Harry, is a successful, and respected, jump jockey.