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Grand National hope Captain Redbeard inflicted a shock defeat on Cheltenham Gold Cup contender Definitly Red in the Malcolm Jefferson Memorial Chase at Kelso.
Definitly Red finished sixth behind Native River in the blue riband at Prestbury Park last March, and had won each of his two previous starts this season – landing 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 felt this £25,000 contest was too good an opportunity to pass up – with Stuart Coltherd’s Captain Redbeard his only rival.
Definitly Red was a prohibitively-priced 1-6 favourite under Danny Cook and made the running for much of the near three-mile journey.
However, it was clear some way from home that it was not going to be plain sailing and after taking over on the run to the final fence, Captain Redbeard found plenty under the trainer son Sam Coltherd to score by two lengths.
Definitly Red was pushed out to as big as 50-1 for the Gold Cup and while Ellison was understandably disappointed, he was far from despondent.
He said: “They just didn’t go quick enough. He could have done with a better gallop and the ground was probably quick enough for him as well.
“I can’t blame Danny because I told him I didn’t want him to have a hard race. He just said he got done for a bit of toe.
“I’m disappointed not to win, but he jumped well and he seems all right, which is the main thing.
“As long as he comes out of the race OK there’ll be no change – we’ll go for the Gold Cup.”
Captain Redbeard only made it as far as the seventh fence before unseating his rider in the National last April, but Coltherd senior is keen on another crack at the world’s most famous steeplechase – providing he makes the cut – and he is now as short as 25-1.
He said of his 9-2 winner: “Brian’s horse is obviously being aimed at the Gold Cup in four weeks’ time, so we thought he might not be at his very best today.
“I’m not saying we thought we’d beat him, but we thought if they went steady and it turned into a sprint we might have a chance and that’s exactly what happened.
“As long as he gets in he’ll go for the National again. He’s number 70 on the list at the moment and the handicapper is fairly confident he will make the cut, so fingers crossed he’s right.
“There’s still seven weeks to go so he could run again between now and then. We’ll just see how he is in the next two or three days and make a plan from there.”
Nicky Henderson’s We Have A Dream did reward odds-on backers in the preceding Timeform Morebattle Hurdle.
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 beaten when the 1-14 market leader in 2010.
Despite having to concede weight to each of his three rivals, Grade One-winning hurdler We Have A Dream appeared 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.
While his performance was solid rather than spectacular, the 1-4 favourite ultimately got the job done comfortably under Daryl Jacob, passing the post six lengths clear of Get Out The Gate.
Henderson was completing a double having earlier landed the Every Race Live On Racing TV Novices’ Hurdle with Nico de Boinville-ridden 1-3 favourite Dream Du Grand Val.