Brian Ellison targeting Welsh Grand National for Sam’s Adventure

THE Coral Welsh Grand National is the early season target for Brian Ellison’s staying steeplechaser Sam’s Adventure who makes his seasonal reappearance today.
Trainer Brian Ellison at his Malton stables.Trainer Brian Ellison at his Malton stables.
Trainer Brian Ellison at his Malton stables.

Ellison does not expect the going at Bangor to be soft enough to bring out the best in the nine-year-old in the Weatherbys Handicap Chase – the well-regarded Windsor Avenue is the more fancied of the trainer’s two runners.

But Malton-based Ellison says he’s got “to start somewhere” if Sam’s Adventure is to be in peak form for the marathon Welsh National at Chepstow on December 27 – a race normally staged on attritional ground.

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“He’s in good form. First time back. The ground won’t be soft enough but we’ve got to start somewhere,” he told The Yorkshire Post.

Trainer Brian Ellison at his Malton stables.Trainer Brian Ellison at his Malton stables.
Trainer Brian Ellison at his Malton stables.

“The Welsh National is the plan.

“I wouldn’t think the Grand National at Aintree would be on the agenda – his best form has always been on soft, heavy,” Ellison added.

Both Sam’s Adventure and Windsor Avenue are owned by Phil and Julie Martin, from Tickhill, who enjoyed so much success with the now retired Definitly Red.

Though Windsor Avenue ran below-par last season, Sam’s Adventure came to prominence when winning the stamina-sapping Eider Chase at Newcastle over an extended four miles in February under Henry Brooke.

This was Brian Ellison's Nietzsche (near side) winning the 2017 Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham.This was Brian Ellison's Nietzsche (near side) winning the 2017 Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham.
This was Brian Ellison's Nietzsche (near side) winning the 2017 Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham.
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But Ellison curses the horse unseating former National-wining rider Ryan Mania in the previous month’s Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock – “he was still tanking” – and then parting company with the aforementioned Brooke at the fourth fence in the subsequent Scottish Grand National at Ayr in April.

Ellison also saddles the well-regarded Nietzsche in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham on Saturday alongside Sue and Harvey Smith’s Midnight Shadow.

He believes the Dan Gilbert-owned horse is more effective at Cheltenham than other courses following his fine victory in the 2018 Greatwood Hurdle at the Cotswolds track under Danny McMenamin who again takes the ride this weekend.

That race saw Ellison’s charge beat Silver Streak, a subsequent Grade One winner over hurdles, and the trainer reported Nietzsche to be “in great form”. “He loves Cheltenham,” he added.

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Meanwhile, Middleham trainer Mark Johnston is preparing Group One winner The Last Lion to return from a mammoth absence of over five years at Lingfield on Saturday.

The son of Choisir won four of his 10 starts during a juvenile campaign which started with victory in the Brocklesby at Doncaster and ended with top-level success in the Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket.

The Last Lion was retired to stud after that 2016 victory over Blue Point, but returned to training earlier this year.

“He’s been back since around May time,” said Johnston. “Basically, once it was realised he was infertile, he was retired (from stud duties) and I purchased Godolphin’s half-share and the other owners basically gave him to me.

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“Joe Fanning has had a couple of gallops on him in the last couple of weeks and was very happy with him, so we’ve made an entry.”

While The Last Lion covered a number of mares and produced 13 individual winners, his stallion career did not take off as hoped.

Johnston added: “There’s a little bit of trepidation – you’ve got to be careful – but we think we’ve done plenty of work with him and it would be great if he can come back to anything like his former self.”

Defending champion Epatante is among 21 entries for the Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on November 27.

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Nicky Henderson’s mare claimed an effortless victory in the Grade One affair last year, on what was her first run since winning the Champion Hurdle, but she failed to win again in three subsequent starts.

Micky Hammond’s former winner Cornerstone Lad also features in a quality field that includes Silver Streak for Settle hill farmer Les Fell.

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