The Betway Many Clouds Chase brought highly-contrasting fortunes for two Aintree favourites as Definitly Red bagged the race again – but 2017 Grand National winner One For Arthur’s comeback ended in anti-climax.
Definitly Red followed up last year’s victory, and his success in last month’s Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, as he ground out a four-and-a-half-length success after One For Arthur had unseated Tom Scudamore at the third fence.
Brian Ellison’s stable star won with the authority befitting a 1-2 favourite, too good for runner-up Double Shuffle and outsider Acdc in the four-runner field for the Grade Two.
One For Arthur, meanwhile, was none the worse for his unlucky spill in his first outing for 609 days – making his way back safely to the stables, and the attention of a doubtless disappointed but relieved trainer Lucinda Russell.
Ellison’s emotions were, of course, very different as he welcomed Definitly Red and jockey Danny Cook – completing a double after Midnight Shadow’s earlier victory – back into a rainy winner’s enclosure.
The North Yorkshire-based trainer said of the nine-year-old: “He’s fantastic. Danny gets on great with him, and he finds a lot when you go for him.”
Early signs of Definitly Red’s progress here were not that promising to those not aware, as his trainer was, that he was just making his feelings clear about the Liverpool weather.
“My wife said to me, ‘He doesn’t look very happy’,” added Ellison. “I said, ‘He hates the rain’.
“He just doesn’t like rain. If you ride him out in it, he wants to go back home. You can’t blame him, can you?”
Definitly Red will not be chancing any more rainy away days until the spring, Ellison confirming it will be next stop Cheltenham in March – with a return to this track on the agenda afterwards, most likely on the Mildmay Course rather than Grand National.
“The next step will probably be the Gold Cup, I think,” he said.
“I just hope we get better ground than we did last time – and we’ll go straight there fresh.”
Cook was delighted to have got the job done again, especially to add to his earlier victory, and reported Definitly Red was not sulking too much about the rain.
“He’s done it well, gone around there having a lovely time with his ears pricked in front – and when I gave him a kick after two out to go and really lengthen, he really put the race to bed,” he said.
“Then as soon as he did that, I let the gas off again. He just seems to be getting better, and has been great for me and Brian as well – I’m very lucky to be in this position to ride him.
“If there’s any horse in training that deserves a Grade One, he’s earned his right to nick one now.”
Horse and jockey increasingly appear to be made for one another.
“I know him – we get on well together,” added Cook.
“He just does enough, then when I ask him for a bit more he gives me that.
“I was driving here today, and thinking I’ve got my two best horses I ride throughout the season, both on the same day.
“I was thinking, ‘If I don’t have a good day today I’ve got a long, old season ahead of me’ – but luckily, they both won.”
For One For Arthur attention will now switch to Wetherby for the Rowland Meyrick Chase at Christmas.
Russell, who also raised the possibility of a trip to Haydock, said: “He’s absolutely fine. He just stepped at it.”