Cheltenham Gold Cup hope Definitly Red will make an unplanned competitive appearance in the Malcolm Jefferson Memorial Chase at Kelso.
Brian Ellison’s stable star finished sixth behind Native River in the blue riband at Prestbury Park last March, and is unbeaten in two starts so far this season – winning the Charlie Hall at Wetherby in November and the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree the following month.
Ellison was initially keen to head straight to Cheltenham with his charge, but gave him a speculative entry in Thursday’s £25,000 contest and is happy to let him take his chance – with just one rival in Stuart Coltherd’s Captain Redbeard taking him on.
Ellison said: “It wasn’t really the plan to run him, to be honest. Phil (Martin, owner) said we should just stick him in – and if it looked like it might just be a school round we might run, but if it looked competitive then we wouldn’t bother.
“If he hadn’t run the plan was to take him to Wetherby for a racecourse gallop – but talking to Jonjo (Sanderson, clerk of the course at Wetherby) he wasn’t sure we’d be able to do that anyway because of this flu situation.
“There’s only two runners at Kelso, so it couldn’t have worked out any better really.”
Definitly Red is a best priced 33-1 for the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup on March 15.
“He had a racecourse gallop at Doncaster recently and worked very well,” Ellison added.
“He’s in great form at home and looks a million dollars.
“He will improve for the run, and hopefully it will put him spot-on for Cheltenham.”
A total prize fund of £30,000 is up for grabs in the Timeform Morebattle Hurdle, in which Nicky Henderson’s We Have A Dream is the star attraction.
Henderson’s fortunes have been mixed in this two-and-a-quarter-mile contest in recent years, with Top Notch triumphing in 2016 but Zaynar infamously beaten when a 1-14 favourite in 2010.
Despite having to concede weight to each of his three rivals, Grade One-winning hurdler We Have A Dream appears to hold outstanding claims – dropping in class after running with credit in the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton, the Coral Hurdle at Ascot and the International Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Should the Seven Barrows challenger fail to run up to expectations, the horse most likely to pick up the pieces is Micky Hammond’s last-time-out Haydock scorer Cornerstone Lad.
Jim Goldie’s Get Out The Gate and the Nicky Richards-trained One For Harry complete the line-up.