Red light for Grand National challenge
Brian Ellison believes everything is in place for Definitly Red to run a massive race in the Randox Health Grand National - as long as he has that crucial luck in running.
Ever the optimist, it is hard not to get carried away by Ellison’s enthusiasm about the eight-year-old’s chances of Aintree glory.
And from his point of view, the Malton handler has done all he can to ensure no stone has been left unturned.
His final race before the National came after the weights were released and if the handicapper had his chance again he would have given Definitly Red another 10lb.
Ellison, who has also been schooling him over custom-built National-style fences, said: “You just hope nothing goes wrong and everything goes right on the day. He’s been working very well.
“There are a few National fences in Malton he’s been schooling over and he’s been brilliant over them.
“He wasn’t stopping over three and a quarter miles at Doncaster and that race (Grimthorpe Chase) has been a good trial for the National - he won that well enough.
“Every horse around him, the form has worked out. Good to soft ground would be fine, but I wouldn’t want it heavy.”
Last year’s runner-up The Last Samuri went down gallantly to Rule The World 12 months ago but faces a much tougher task under top weight.
“I’m delighted with him and the preparation has gone according to plan,” said trainer Kim Bailey, who won the race with Mr Frisk in 1990.
“He has top weight and it is a lot of weight, but it’s a compressed handicap now and he carries weight well.
“We’ve got to go nearly four and a half miles to go and the rest is in the lap of the gods.
“He’s a tough little horse and he’ll do his best.”
David Pipe is another trainer who knows what it takes to win the race, having triumphed in 2008 with Comply Or Die.
This year he has four runners, but his chief hope is Becher Chase and Haydock Grand National Trial winner Vieux Lion Rouge, who was seventh last year.
Pipe said: “He’s still young, he’s only eight.
“He ran a great race in the National last year when it was pretty soft ground.
“While the ground will be lovely and safe this year, it will probably be a bit quicker which he handled at Cheltenham the year before.
“He seems to stay very well this year. He still has to stay the trip better than he did last year, but you can say the same about a lot of the horses.
“We have two National-style fences and Tom (Scudamore) schooled him over them on Tuesday morning and he jumped well.
“There was probably no need as he’s got plenty of experience over them, but he seems to jump them better than park fences.”
Pipe also runs Ballynagour, La Vaticane and Doctor Harper.
More Of That is the chosen mount of Barry Geraghty and though he has never hit the heights expected of him over fences, he remains the only horse to have beaten the great mare Annie Power when she has stood up.
Trainer Jonjo O’Neill still holds him in high regard and he ran a respectable race in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, having previously unseated his jockey at the last fence of the Irish Gold Cup when still firmly involved.
O’Neill, a National winner in 2010 with Don’t Push, It said: “He is in good old form.
“He has come out of the Cheltenham Gold Cup fine. I was pleased with his performance in the Gold Cup but not delighted.
“He just seems to have lost a bit of toe and I always find that is the right time to come to the Grand National with a horse. He is relaxing a bit better and he is jumping well, a good economical jumper.
“He did nothing wrong at Cheltenham, though the Grand National trip is an unknown.
“I cannot see why he won’t get the trip, but you never know until you try it.”
One For Arthur is trained in Scotland by Lucinda Russell, who is assisted by former champion jockey Peter Scudamore.
Russell said: “He’s got loads and loads of scope. His only problem could be jumping too big, but he should be safe.
“I’m just looking forward to the day, I feel a bit sick talking about it now but he doesn’t know what’s going on.
“When his owners first wanted a horse I asked them if they’d rather win the Gold Cup or National.
“They all said, ‘National’, and it’s also a race I’ve always wanted to win.”