Definitly Red in with a big chance for the Grand National

BRIAN ELLISON believes Definitly Red is the horse to deny Tiger Roll a historic third successive Randox Health Grand National next month. “I think he will win it,” he says.

Definitly Red is on course for the Grand National after returning to winning ways at Kelso under Danny Cook.

The Malton trainer is also acutely aware that the build-up is key. “Get him there, that’s the main thing, and hope the jockey is sensible on the day,” he ventures to The Yorkshire Post.

Ellison was speaking after the popular 11-year-old Definitly Red returned to winning ways when winning the Premier Chase at Kelso under regular rider Danny Cook.

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On tacky ground, the chestnut chaser – who was carrying top weight – had 14 lengths in hand over the runner-up Kauto Riko.

Owner Phil Martin (left) and Danny Cook after Definitly Red won the 2018 Charlie Hall Chase.

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Cook’s task in the saddle was not made any easier by the decision to omit the fences in the home straight due to the low sun – his mount idled on the run-in.

But, after choosing to miss next week’s Cheltenham Gold Cup to focus on the National, Ellison was delighted with Definitly Red’s first run since chasing home Sue Smith’s Grand National contender Vintage Clouds in Haydock’s Peter Marsh Chase.

The trainer believes the horse’s weight of 10st 10lb – a stone less than Tiger Roll – will play to the strengths of Definitly Red, who was staying on when finishing fourth in last December’s Becher Chase over the unique Aintree fences.

Tiger Roll and Davy Russell will attempt to win an unprecedented third successive Grand National next month.

Though just short of Gold Cup class. he has now won 14 out of 35 career starts, including the 2018 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, for owners Phil and Julie Martin from Tickhill.

“You wouldn’t expect top Grade One horses, Santini and the others, to give Red a stone,” said Ellison who was speaking while leading his stable star to the paddock.

“The good thing is he’s come out of Kelso very well. He’s grand, he’s eaten up everything and is fine –- that’s the main thing.

“I’m glad that’s out of the way (Kelso). I’ve backed him for the National, despite not being a big gambler, but I’ve always thought the race would suit him as he’s a proper stayer.

“He’s got plenty going for him, he’s got a nice weight, 10st 10lb, but you need luck in the National.

“He hated that ground at Kelso, it was tacky. The track doesn’t suit really, and taking the fences out didn’t help him, but he still won well.

“He ran in the Becher and didn’t school over a National fence, but he’ll probably have a pop over the ones in Malton.

“He ran in the National a couple of years ago, but got brought down when a horse fell in front of him. There’s no such thing as a free pass in the National, but I think he’s got a massive chance.

“He’s a better horse now, he’s got stronger and he stays better – I think he’s got everything going for him.”

The trainer has been in racing long enough to realise that the 2019 Yorkshire horse of the year, a multiple Grade Two winner, will not need any major mishaps in the coming weeks if he’s to get to Merseyside on April 4 in the form of his life.

He also realises that the National can be a lottery – Definitly Red’s chance went in 2017 when Cook’s saddle slipped following a melee at Becher’s Brook on the first circuit.

Ellison says he will be looking to keep his jockey calm on the day of the National and to ride a patient race.

But he admits that he is bullish about the horse’s chance of spoiling Tiger Roll’s hat-trick bid. “I am. I want to win the race,” he added.

“Whether it happens or not, I want to. I want to. Take nothing away from Tiger Roll, he’s a fantastic horse, winning at the Cheltenham four times and two Nationals, but you’ve got to look after your own. I hope we can spoil the Tiger Roll party!”

On a good day for Malton in the Scottish Borders,Clondaw Caitlin beat the boys in the William Hill Premier Novices’ Hurdle.

Trainer Ruth Jefferson took the brave decision to run her mare in the Grade Two feature and was rewarded for her boldness with a clear-cut success under Brian Hughes, the season’s leading rider.

Jefferson said: “She won a bumper, but we thought we’d go hurdling and she’s improved for every run.

“She had a double penalty if she’d run in another mares’ race or she’d have had to go handicapping, so when I saw this race I thought, ‘why not’.

“Bringing her back in trip could have been the worry, I suppose. She had a rating up there with the best of them and with the mares’ allowance she was getting weight.

“She was a mare that was thriving and you’ve got to run them when they are well.”

Looking ahead, Jefferson said: “There’s a Listed race at Newbury, but I think that will come too soon, so she’ll have options at Aintree and then there’s the mares’ meeting at Cheltenham. The better the ground, the further I’d go in trip.

“She’s a bit of a madam, a typical mare, within two weeks of coming to us she’d kicked three of us! One more run will do, she’s only five and she’s done us proud.”

As for Hughes, he was quick to credit the trainer. “It was a bold shout to come here, it was Ruth’s call and it’s paid off,” he said. “She’d won a couple of mares’ races and a bumper. She’s owned by family friends of my wife, so it was nice of them to let me ride her.”