Definitly Red has every chance in open Gold Cup, says Ellison
Definitly Red has "every chance" of giving the north its first Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup winner since Jodami in 1993, with trainer Brian Ellison talking up the hopes of Saturday's Cotswold Chase winner who he believes is still underestimated by the bookmakers.
Ellison was speaking the day after Definitly Red emerged as a live Gold Cup outsider following his hard-fought eight-length success in Cheltenham's only Gold Cup trial, the Cotswold Chase, which he won by eight lengths from American.
That resulted in Definitly Red's odds tumbling to replicate Jodami, trained by Peter Beaumont about 15 miles west of Ellison's Malton base, and on Sunday the best-available price contracted further to 20-1 (from 25).
Although the Randox Health Grand National remains among Definitly Red's spring options, Ellison has his sights fixed on the Gold Cup and believes the market leader, the Nicky Henderson-trained Might Bite, is easy to oppose.
"The Gold Cup is quite open," said the trainer. "Might Bite is favourite but I don't think the form of the King George looks that strong. Red has every chance and could be overpriced."
Definitly Red responded well to a positive Danny Cook ride to win comfortably from American and Bristol De Mai on heavy ground.
"I thought it was a very impressive performance – he jumped brilliantly and has proved how good a horse he is," said Ellison. "He ran a great race at Aintree last month and is in the form of his life. The likely faster ground at Cheltenham come March will not bother him as he has won on good to soft. If he can finish in the first three we'd be delighted."
Ellison finds himself in the enviable position of contemplating the two biggest jump races in the calendar for Definitly Red, who was one of the leading fancies for last year's Grand National, only to be pulled up early on after he was badly hampered and his saddle slipped.
He is a general 20-1 shot for the National but is set to be allocated a lot more weight this time.
"We'll get the Gold Cup out of the way first but he'll be entered in the National and we wouldn't be afraid of doing both as there are four weeks between Cheltenham and Aintree this year," said Ellison.
"We'll have to see what type of weight he gets for the National but there's also the possibility he could go for the Bowl at Aintree."
The National looks more set in stone for Cotswold Chase fourth The Last Samuri, who finished second in the Aintree spectacular in 2016.
His trainer Kim Bailey said: "The race confirmed he's not a Gold Cup horse. He was flat out but has still run a very good race. He'll more than likely go straight to the Grand National now."
As well as providing Ellison with an overdue Cheltenham victory, Definitly Red continued the recent run of big-race success for northern-trained jumpers and hopes are high the region's blanks at the last three festival will not be repeated.
"Malcolm Jefferson and Nicky Richards have had big wins with Waiting Patiently and Simply Ned and we've got the Stayers' Hurdle favourite [Sam Spinner] in the north," added Ellison.
"Sue Smith won the big race at Doncaster yesterday [Sky Bet Chase] with Wakanda and Donald McCain is having a brilliant season too.
"There are some fantastic trainers in the north – it's just about getting the better horses – and it looks like there'll be a strong team this time."
Members can read the latest exclusive interviews, news analysis and comment available from 6pm daily on racingpost.com