Northern raider Definitly paints Cheltenham red with gutsy success
Definitly Red is definitely Cheltenham Gold Cup bound after the raider from Yorkshire delivered another reminder that the north is a resurgent force in jumping.
Were there any doubts, Lucinda Russell with One For Arthur, Nicky Richards with Simply Ned, Malcolm Jefferson with Waiting Patiently and now Brian Ellison have proved that top jumpers can be trained north of the Trent.
So Ellison, owner Phil Martin and jockey Danny Cook could look forward to March with some optimism after the nine-year-old defeated American and Bristol De Mai in Cheltenham's only Gold Cup trial.
Martin said: "I’ve got a Gold Cup runner; it’s just a dream. I’ve had a fair few horses but there are many people who have had far more horses than me and never got there, so we’ll give it a shot and hope for the best. I’m still coming down from cloud nine but it was fantastic.
"It’s brilliant for the north. The only reason the north is behind the south is because the south has the best horses. Brian’s proved it, Malcolm Jefferson has proved it – if you give them the ammunition they can do the job for sure."Definitly Red was cut to 25-1 (from 50-1) by Coral and Ladbrokes for the Gold Cup after gaining a hard-fought win. He responded to an aggressive ride to master American and win by eight lengths, with favourite Bristol De Mai two and a quarter lengths further back.
At Cheltenham Ellison endured Champion Chase heartbreak in 2002 and 2003 when Latalomne crashed out at the second-last and his losing run at the track stretched back to November 2001 from 78 runners.
"You've got to have a good horse to come here and this is probably the best horse I have ever trained," he said.
"He's class. Danny gave him a great ride, used his head down the back to sit beside American and then, as American was jumping better, sat two lengths off him. Then when he gave him a kick in the belly he has gone.
"He never let up in the ground and shows he stays well. It's Gold Cup now."
Cook said: "He goes under the radar every time he runs. His wins-to- runs ratio is now 12 wins from 23 runs, more than 50 per cent. He's a fantastic horse for me to ride and I'm very lucky with a loyal owner and trainer and hopefully I can keep repaying their faith.
"I'll enjoy today, have a few drinks tonight and celebrate because I don't get to ride that much round here."
American, who had been a major fancy for the Ladbrokes Trophy only to pull up, thrilled trainer Harry Fry and is not out of Gold Cup contention, even though not entered.
"It was a huge run," said Fry. "For a long way he looked like doing what I thought was impossible today and win, but he didn't have a proper race in the Ladbrokes Trophy and maybe a lack of a run has found him out turning in. I'd have taken second all day long.
"He's not in the Gold Cup, but if conditions came up like this we'd have to think about supplementing him."
However, Bristol De Mai probably ruled himself out, despite running better than at Kempton in the King George.
"We've asked a few questions of the horse and we've found them out," said Anthony Bromley, racing manager to owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede.
"We came here hopeful, but he doesn't look a Gold Cup horse on that running. We might have another plan and he'll get an entry in the Grand National. It might be the National more than the Gold Cup."
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