Brian Ellison is hoping Definitly Red can benefit from having had a relatively light campaign when he lines up for the bet365 Oaksey Chase at Sandown on Saturday.
The North Yorkshire trainer gave his stable star a mid-winter break after chalking up a brace of Grade Two victories, in Wetherby’s Charlie Hall Chase and the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree.
Things did not work out on his return, with a shock defeat at odds of 1-6 against sole opponent Captain Redbeard at Kelso.
Then he was brought down by the fatally-injured Invitation Only at the 10th fence in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, a fall that required stitches.
Because of that, Ellison could not take Definitly Red to Aintree for the Betfred Bowl. However, the horse is now ready to return to the fray. The trainer is just praying for a bit of rain.
“He’s in very good form and I’m really happy with him,” said Ellison.
“I just hope it rains in the morning. Hopefully, they will get some.
“He had to have five stitches in his knee after the Gold Cup. He missed about 10 days, which is why he didn’t go to Aintree.
“Obviously he’s going there a really fresh horse. He’s got a major chance.”
Kim Bailey feels Charbel has a lot going for him, especially with Cyrname missing the race.
“Charbel is fine. I put a tongue-strap on at Cheltenham and he hated it. He has been working with Robin The Raven and I’m very happy with him,” said Bailey.
“With Cyrname not turning up he has a great chance. He has had a fantastic season. I’m really pleased with him and he has a set of great owners.”
Charbel enjoyed his finest hour date in the Grade Two Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon in December.
Josses Hill, who was fourth that day, takes him on again. His trainer Nicky Henderson is also represented by Gold Present.
Paul Nicholls is double-handed with Black Corton and San Benedeto, while the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Go Conquer bids to atone after being pulled up in the Grand National. Dan Skelton’s Cobra De Mai completes the field.
Black Op also sustained an injury at Cheltenham, but is back to full fitness and bids to end what has been a frustrating season on a high in the bet365 Select Hurdle.
A successful staying hurdler last term, trainer Tom George sent him novice chasing. That did not go to plan, though his third behind two subsequent Grade One winners in Lostintranslation and Defi Du Seuil in the Dipper at Cheltenham has turned out to be top class.
Black Op was switched back to the smaller obstacles and ran really well when third to Paisley Park in the Cleeve Hurdle, before an unfortunate experience at the Festival.
“I’m looking forward to getting him back out. He had a very nasty injury at Cheltenham. A piece of wood had gone into his coronet band,” said the Slad handler.
“He was very sore on it for quite a long time afterwards, but he’s bounced back from that now.
“I think two-six will be his ideal trip over hurdles, probably.
“The season just hasn’t gone his way. Earlier on in the season, he missed a lot of novice chases because of the firm ground, but his novice chase (form) is probably as good as any another in the country, even though things weren’t going well.
“We hope to get everything back on track and see where we are.”
Nicholls relies on Old Guard, who was fourth 12 months ago behind the Henderson-trained Call Me Lord, while the Ditcheat stable has three among the 10 horses declared – Thomas Campbell, On The Blind Side and With Discretion.