Definitly Red can book his ticket to the 2020 Randox Health Grand National at Aintree Racecourse on April 4 with victory in the Listed William Hill Leading Racecourse Bookmaker Premier Chase (3.22pm) at Kelso on Saturday afternoon.
Some Grand National hopefuls will be having their final prep race at Doncaster and Kelso on Saturday before their crack at the world’s greatest steeplechase at Aintree in five weeks.
The Listed contest has been a good prep for Aintree and previous winners Auroras Encore (2013) and Ballabriggs (2011) ran in it before their wins.
Definitly Red was second in a messy two-horse renewal of it last year – but he looks set to use it as a stepping stone as well.
He, like fellow National entrant Saint Xavier, is also entered in the 888sport Grimthorpe Handicap Chase (3.35pm) at Doncaster. But he looks set to line-up in Scotland instead.
Brian Ellison’s chaser looks to have sounds claims when he has a second crack at the Grand National.
He won the Grimthorpe in 2018 before his luckless run in the Aintree marathon when he was pulled up.
Since then he has landed four Grade Two chases and competed at the top level in the Gold Cup.
He ran a fine race to be second in the Grade Two Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock Park last time, having been a decent fourth over the big Aintree obstacles in the Becher Chase before Christmas.
See the full list of Grand National 2020 entries and weights.
He can boost his Aintree hopes and show he’s still capable at the age of 11 with a ninth success over fences.
In his likely absence Aaron Lad – from the Grand National-winning stable of Dr Richard Newland – can land the Grimthorpe Chase.
He won well at Exeter last time and from only 3lbs higher he may be able to score again.
The Philip Hobbs-trained Jerrysback may be able to win the 888Sport Bet £10 Get £30 Handicap Chase (2.25pm).
The eight-year-old ran well to be third at Ascot before Christmas and can go a couple of places better.
Newbury has been abandoned due to overnight rain.
At Doncaster Ben Case’s Coded Message can win the 888Sport Handicap Hurdle (1.50pm); while at Kelso Nicholls’ Calva D’Auge may take the William Hill Premier Novices’ Hurdle (2.45pm) and the Mick Easterby-trained Albert’s Back looks to hold a big chance of victory in the Cyril Alexander Memorial Chase (A Novices’ Limited Handicap) (2.12pm)
1.50pm Coded Message
3pm Cill Anna
3.35pm Aaron Lad (NAP)
5.20pm Kearney Hill
NEWBURY (Abandoned, due to heavy rain)
1.37pm Beat Box
2.12pm Albert’s Back
2.45pm Calva D’Auge
3.22pm Definitly Red
3.57pm Black Pirate
5.07pm Monbeg River
1.25pm Bernie’s Boy
2pm Royal Birth
2.35pm Greatest Journey
3.45pm Clog Maker
SUNDAY’S NAP: KIng’s Odyssey (3.10pm Sedgefield)
Thomas Darby on course for Aintree Hurdle at Randox Health Grand National Festival
Thomas Darby is being prepared for a crack at the Aintree Hurdle on April 2 despite his short-priced defeat at Fontwell last Sunday.
Olly Murphy’s seven-year-old made a winning return to the smaller obstacles when landing the Matchbook Holloway’s Handicap Hurdle at Ascot last month.
The gelded son of Beneficial was then sent off a warm favourite to score again in the Grade Two National Spirit Hurdle last weekend.
But Murphy’s charge could only finish third the fast-finishing winner William Henry and runner-up Quel Destin.
The Warwickshire-based trainer believes Thomas Darby didn’t show his true running and he will bypass next month’s Cheltenham Festival and will now head to Merseyside.
The Grade One Aintree Hurdle on the opening day – Liverpool’s Day – of the three-day Randox Health Grand National Festival is his main target and Murphy expects him to show his true running there.
Murphy said: “He had a very hard race and definitely won’t be going to Cheltenham.
“It didn’t work out for him on the day.
“He ended up in front after the other horse (Quel Destin) jinked at the start and everything that could go wrong did go wrong, but that’s racing.
“He’s come out of the race fine, so we’ll give him a bit of time and get him ready for Aintree – that’s definitely the plan.”