Yorkshire-based trainer Brian Ellison will be flying the flag for the north of England when Definitly Red competes in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The ten-year-old competed in the event last season, finishing down in sixth place out of a field of 15 competitors.
He was well off the pace of the leading group as Native River claimed the crown, although the chestnut gelding still performed well to complete the race that bested other prominent horses. Definitly Red returns for another crack at the crown, although the odds are once again stacked against him, facing elite competition in the event. Ellison’s charge has reeled off a couple of victories in the National Hunt this term, but will need to rise to the occasion at Cheltenham.
The reigning champion Native River along with King George VI Chase winner Clan des Obeaux are among the leading contenders among the bookmakers highlighted by Oddschecker for the event. Definitly Red has value on his side at 33/1 as an outsider, and he can take confidence that outsiders have won the race before. The Irish-bred horse has been solid enough on the track this term, winning the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.
With Danny Cook in the saddle, he finished two lengths ahead of Black Corton, who had been the favourite for the event. Definitly Red followed up his performance with a fine run at Aintree in the Many Clouds Chase, beating 2017 Grand National winner One For Arthur in the process. Ellison’s charge was disappointing in his last outing before the Festival finishing behind Captain Redbeard in the Malcolm Jefferson Memorial Chase. We’ll now look at two horses that he could try to emulate to clinch a first Gold Cup for Ellison.
Lord Windermere was a 20/1 outsider for the crown in 2014, although he had triumphed at Cheltenham Festival in the previous campaign, winning the RSA Novices’ Chase. However, the Irish-bred horse was faced with a talented field, including the reigning champion Bob’s Worth and 2013 King George VI Chase winner Silviniaco Conti. However, trainer Jim Culloty had all the experience needed in the race, having ridden Best Mate to victory three times on the bounce between 2002 and 2004.
Davy Russell took to the saddle and made a slow start to the race, keeping his charge at the back of the field. It took him to move the bay gelding into contention for the crown, but with three furlongs left he challenged Bob’s Worth and Silviniaco Conti. Lord Windermere came through as part of a three-horse breakaway with On His Own and The Giant Bolster as the two leaders faltered down the stretch.
Culloty’s charge found a surge to beat out On His Own by a head on the line, and although there was a stewards’ inquiry about the shift of the three horses to the front, Lord Windermere was awarded the victory. No horse since has matched his performance as an outsider in the event, although he was not the first surprise Gold Cup winner.
Norton’s Coin was the most notorious underdog to have triumphed in the Gold Cup as a 100/1 shout in 1990. However, two years later Cool Ground also pulled off a surprise triumph and to provide symmetry with Definitly Red, Toby Balding’s charge was also 10 when he won the event. Carvill’s Hill was the odds-on favourite for the victory, with Martin Pipe’s charge boasting a starting price of evens. Norton’s Coin was also in the field, although not a great deal was expected of him on this occasion. Cool Ground did have form entering the race, notching victories at Chepstow in the Grand National Trial Chase and at Haydock Park in the Greenalls Gold Cup.
In a limited field of eight horses, jockey Adrian Maguire kept his charge on track amid controversy elsewhere in the race. Cool Ground found the pace down the stretch when it mattered the most to see of a talented horse in the form of The Fellow, edging him out on the line by a short head. It was one of the closest races in the history of the Gold Cup, while there were accusations elsewhere that 150/1 shout Golden Freeze was run to distract Carvill’s Hill over the fences. However, Cool Ground will be in the books forever as the winner and Definitly Red can aspire to do the same.