Tuesday 20 February 2018

'If he jumps he nearly wins' - Danny Cook full of confidence in Definitly Red's Aintree chances

(Photo By Seb Daly/Sportsfile via Getty Images)
(Photo By Seb Daly/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Ashley Iveson

Danny Cook is in bullish mood ahead of his bid for Randox Health Grand National glory aboard the well-fancied Definitly Red.

The Brian Ellison-trained eight-year-old has emerged as a leading contender for the Aintree spectacular with key victories in the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby and the Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster.

Cook admits it would be a dream come true to add his name to the roll of honour in the world's most famous steeplechase, and is confident Definitly Red will be involved in the finish granted a clear round and luck in running.

"Winning the Grand National would be everything for me. This is all I've ever wanted to do," said Cook.

"I can't really think about it now because it's not happened. When it happens we can enjoy it and take it all in.

"I can't wait to get started really. He's in great form. If he jumps, for me, he nearly wins, but sometimes it can be too plain sailing.

"He's a 160-plus horse running off 149. Is it too obvious? I don't know.

"I think he's got an outstanding chance."

The Romford-born rider is planning for a quiet Friday night ahead of his potential date with destiny.

"I'll get home and watch a bit of Emmerdale and Eastenders or whatever is on the telly and then go to bed and wake up fresh for tomorrow," the jockey added.

"The missus doesn't normally take an interest, but I think it's starting to kick in what a big deal it is.

"It's nice for all involved and we just hope he can run well and come back safe and sound."

North Yorkshire-based Ellison, who has been schooling his charge over custom-built National-style fences, believes everything is in place for Definitly Red to run a very big race

He said: "You just hope nothing goes wrong and everything goes right on the day. He's been working very well.

"There are a few National fences in Malton he's been schooling over and he's been brilliant over them."

It would be no surprise to see More Of That challenging Definitly Red and others for favouritism come the start time of 5.15pm on Saturday.

Trained by Jonjo O'Neill and ridden by Barry Geraghty for leading owner JP McManus, More Of That is arguably the class horse in the field.

He has never hit the heights expected of him over fences, but he remains the only horse to have beaten the great mare Annie Power when she has stood up.

The nine-year-old was last seen finishing sixth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

O'Neill, a National winner in 2010 with Don't Push, It said: "He is in good old form.

"He has come out of the Gold Cup fine. I was pleased with his performance that day, but not delighted.

"He just seems to have lost a bit of toe and I always find that is the right time to come to the Grand National with a horse."

Last year's runner-up The Last Samuri went down gallantly to Rule The World 12 months ago but faces a much tougher task under top weight.

"I'm delighted with him and the preparation has gone according to plan," said trainer Kim Bailey, who won the race with Mr Frisk in 1990.

"He has top weight and it is a lot of weight, but it's a compressed handicap now and he carries weight well.

"He's a tough little horse and he'll do his best."

David Pipe is another trainer who knows what it takes to win the race, having triumphed in 2008 with Comply Or Die.

This year he has four runners, but his chief hope is Becher Chase and Haydock Grand National Trial winner Vieux Lion Rouge, who was seventh last year.

Pipe said: "He's still young, he's only eight.

"He ran a great race in the National last year when it was pretty soft ground.

"He seems to stay very well this year. He still has to stay the trip better than he did last year, but you can say the same about a lot of the horses."

Pipe also runs Ballynagour, La Vaticane and Doctor Harper.

A second National success for Paul Nicholls would be of huge significance in the race to be crowned this season's champion trainer.

The 10-times title holder has ground to make up on Nicky Henderson, but it was a similar story in 2012 until Neptune Collonges claimed a thrilling victory at Aintree.

Nicholls has five contenders this year headed by Gold Cup fifth Saphir Du Rheu.

"To finish fifth in the Gold Cup was a good run and he wasn't beaten far. If he repeats that form he'd have to have a massive chance," said the Ditcheat handler.

Le Mercurey, Vicente, Just A Par and the Katie Walsh-ridden Wonderful Charm complete the trainer's quintet.

Walsh, who finished third in the 2012 National aboard Seabass, looked set to miss this year's race after suffering a heavy fall at Aintree on Thursday.

However, with an arm injury not as bad as first feared, she is relishing another shot at becoming the first female to ride the National winner.

She said: "I feel fine, a bit sore but I'm 100 per cent.

"There is only one Grand National and to get the opportunity to ride in the race again is brilliant - everyone wants to ride in it.

"I'm privileged to ride in it as so many people never get the opportunity to ride over these fences."

Ruby Walsh, brother of Katie and a dual National winner having struck on Papillon (2000) and Hedgehunter (2005), partners the Willie Mullins-trained Pleasant Company.

"It will be much easier for me riding in the race than if I was having to watch Katie from the stands. I just find it much easier to ride against her than watch her," Walsh told Racing UK.

"I think I've got a great chance. I think he's improved from Fairyhouse and he'll enjoy the drying ground."

One For Arthur is trained in Scotland by Lucinda Russell, who is assisted by former champion jockey Peter Scudamore.

Russell said: "He's got loads and loads of scope. His only problem could be jumping too big, but he should be safe.

"I'm just looking forward to the day, I feel a bit sick talking about it now but he doesn't know what's going on.

"When his owners first wanted a horse I asked them if they'd rather win the Gold Cup or National.

"They all said, 'National', and it's also a race I've always wanted to win."

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