Definitely Red was the weekend’s most impressive winner, bolting-up by fifteen lengths in the Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster. Brian Ellison’s 8yo has long been the apple of his trainer’s eye and after claiming a second competitive handicap chase of the season, is now 14/1 from 20s and 33s to win the biggest one of all.
The gelding got a brilliant ride from Danny Cook in the plate, as did The Last Samuri who plugged on to finish second in the closing stages. Last year’s runner-up remains a 16/1 chance with BetVictor to go one better in the Grand National in the spring, and trainer Kim Bailey was reportedly delighted and all roads now leading to Aintree.
Grand National prices from BetVictor
Vieux Lion Rouge 10/1
Defintly Red 14/1 (from 33s)
The Last Samuri 16/1
Ucello Conti 16/1
Saturday was undoubtedly a disappointing one for the handler, with Harry Topper finishing fourth in the Veterans’ Chase on Greatwood Day at Newbury, but the yard remain in good form and I’d be keen to follow his horses in the run-up to the Cheltenham Festival. Jonjo O’Neill’s string always burst into life at this time of year and there have been nibbles for some of his handicappers with Holywell 14/1 from 16s with BetVictor for the Ultima Handicap Chase on Day One. His pair of Gold Cup runners have likewise been supported; Minella Rocco and More of That cut to 20/1 from 25s in the week.
Jockey plans remain up in the air for the majority of Jonjo’s JP-owned runners but Aidan Coleman remains popular in the camp and is 8/1 from 66s with BetVictor to be Top Jockey at next week’s festival after the injury of retained pilot Barry Geraghty. Coleman has three rides today at Southwell, including two for David Dennis, and must go close aboard Seven Kingdoms (3.30) in the handicap hurdle over a stamina sapping three miles. The selection relishes this afternoon’s forecasting testing conditions and has been given a chance by the handicapper from a career low mark.
Another horse chanced to bounce back to form is Cruiseaweigh (3.00) in the Novices’ Hurdle over two and a half miles. Tom George’s son of Oscar looked a world-beater earlier at Aintree in the campaign, before disappointing in similar contests at Sandown and Newbury thereafter. A first-time hood should help him settle in his races and he should take all the beating under regular pilot Adrian Heskin.
They go at Lingfield where Perfect Moment (2.20) should make use of her favourable weight-for-age allowance to beat Nicky Henderson’s Polly’s Pursuit under 5lb conditional Ned Curtis. The selection was a beaten favourite when well-backed on her rules debut at Wetherby. She looked in need of the run the last day and should put that effort behind her to make it second time lucky under the excellent Graham Lee.
The Gordon yard enjoyed a double at Newbury on Saturday and with the yard in good form I’m keen to support Sea Wall (5.20) back over fences after scoring last week over timber. The selection landed a gamble in good style at Plumpton and goes back chasing on a 5lb lower mark.
At Wolverhampton, the good form of the Ellison yard should extend to the all-weather with Malaysian Boleh (2.10) expected to go close in the opener under Ben Curtis. The selection has finished second in a pair of 7f Handicaps at Lingfield and Wolverhampton and should benefit for the drop back to six.
David Barron’s African Blessing (2.40) looked a horse with a bright future when making a winning debut on the all-weather last season and is chanced to score for the first time since then in the second division of the sprint handicap. He returns to the all-weather after finishing out of the frame in a trio of handicaps at Newmarket, Ayr and Chester but should improve for the return to the fibresand.
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