De­light for Cook on Red let­ter day for York­shire

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - RACING - Tom Rich­mond RAC­ING COR­RE­SPON­DENT ■ Email: tom.rich­mond@ypn.co.uk ■ Twit­ter: @Opin­ionYP

EVEN THOUGH jockey Danny Cook and owner Phil Martin grew up watch­ing rac­ing in dif­fer­ent eras, they al­ways wanted their names on the Char­lie Hall Chase’s roll of hon­our be­cause of the race’s pres­tige.

Now they – and Mal­ton trainer Brian El­li­son – can look at the his­tory books, and watch the re­plays, with jus­ti­fi­able pride af­ter the pop­u­lar Definitly Red be­came the first York­shire win­ner of Wetherby’s show­piece steeplechase since 1987.

On an un­for­get­table day which saw a York­shire clean sweep of the ma­jor races thanks to Lady But­tons and Nau­ti­cal Nitwit win­ning the chief sup­port races for Phil Kirby, the post-race re­ac­tion of Cook and Martin spoke vol­umes as North­ern jump rac­ing en­joyed one of its finest days on home turf in re­cent years.

As re­tired Tick­hill busi­ness­man Martin led his horse back into the win­ner’s en­clo­sure, an elated Cook waved his whip in the air as he ac­cepted the ac­claim of a knowl­edge­able crowd who can spot a good horse when they see one.

The ova­tion trumped the greet­ing af­forded mo­ments ear­lier to the run­ner up Black Cor­ton af­ter ever pop­u­lar rider Bry­ony Frost made a grav­ity-de­fy­ing re­cov­ery when her horse blun­dered at the first of four open ditches.

She de­served this re­cep­tion – and the spon­ta­neous round of ap­plause from the packed grand­stands dur­ing the race – af­ter she found her­self pre­car­i­ously hang­ing around Black Cor­ton’s leg in a dra­matic con­test which be­gan with Dou­ble Shuf­fle crash­ing out at the very first fence.

Yet, as the race pro­gressed, Black Cor­ton – and Brid­get An­drews back in third on Vir­gilio – were al­ways up against it as Definitly Red jumped slickly, and then pro­duced a prodi­gious leap at the fifth last, to con­firm his su­pe­ri­or­ity.

From then, the home favourite was never trou­bled and be­came a more than de­serv­ing win­ner of a his­toric race that can be traced back to 1969 and which has been won by some of steeplechas­ing’s all-time greats.

Tes­ti­mony to the train­ing ver­sa­til­ity of the afore­men­tioned El­li­son, who was away in Amer­ica where The Mackem Bul­let had fin­ished sixth at Flat rac­ing’s Breed­ers’ Cup meet­ing the pre­vi­ous night, it also vin­di­cated Cook and Martin’s de­ci­sion to take a chance and run Definitly Red on ground that was quicker than ideal.

Even though seven mil­lion tonnes of wa­ter had been pumped onto the race­course since early Septem­ber due to the un­sea­son- ably dry au­tumn, Wetherby’s fea­ture day of the year was hit by de­pleted run­ners af­ter 16 horses were with­drawn by con­nec­tions be­cause of the quick ground.

These were pri­mar­ily in the sup­port­ing races be­cause train­ers have al­ter­na­tive op­tions for their horses. And while only four run­ners went to post for the £100,000 Char­lie Hall Chase af­ter high-pro­file en­tries like Bris­tol De Mai and Thistle­crack were not de­clared on Fri­day, Definitly Red would have been more than a match for them on this form.

“That was good fun, I want to do it again,” a de­lighted Cook told The York­shire Post af­ter win­ning for the sev­enth time on the diminu­tive horse that he calls ‘Big Red’.

“It’s great for ev­ery­one con­cerned to win a pres­ti­gious race – and great to have our names in his­tory. Grow­ing up, it’s one of the races that I al­ways watched. He likes good ground and he re­ally en­joyed him­self. He’s per­fect for me be­cause he races be­hind the bri­dle a lit­tle, but he keeps find­ing for pres­sure. He’s done won­ders for me and I love rid­ing him.”

As for the fu­ture, the afore­men­tioned Martin nom­i­nated the Many Clouds Chase at Ain­tree on De­cem­ber 8 – a high-pro­file race that Definitly Red won last sea­son en route to land­ing the Cotswold Chase at Chel­tenham be­fore fin­ish­ing a far from dis­graced sixth in the Gold Cup.

The quandary is a longer-term tar­get for this nine-year-old, who can­not han­dle the very sticky ground that he ex­pe­ri­enced in Chel­tenham’s blue riband race.

Martin is of a view that Definitly Red is more ef­fec­tive in smaller races where he’s less likely to be in­tim­i­dated by big­ger ri­vals.

“The next ob­vi­ous race for him is the Many Clouds Case at Ain­tree he won last year. It’s a small field and he likes to boss them, he’s much bet­ter in smaller fields,” said the owner.

“He’s a fan­tas­tic jumper and him and Danny are a match made in heaven.

“This is a race I’ve al­ways wanted to win. Brian wasn’t keen to run, but I twisted his arm. He’s just shy of top class, but he’s a proper Grade Two horse.

“I think when he won the Cotswold Chase last sea­son that left a mark on him in the Gold Cup, so if we’re think­ing that way this year he wouldn’t run in it, that’s if we’re be­ing se­ri­ous.”

As for Frost, she en­dured a chas­ten­ing day. She took a heavy fall when leav­ing the pad­dock on Cub­swin be­fore the Mares’ Hurdle won by Lady But­tons, but was still smil­ing af­ter her mir­a­cle re­cov­ery on Black Cor­ton. “Let me just pick my heart up off the floor. It was a silly mis­take, but he stuck his neck out and made sure I didn’t fall off,” she said.

Yet, while her acro­bat­ics will be re­played time and time again, this de­serves to be re­mem­bered as a red let­ter day for York­shire rac­ing – and Definitly Red.

It’s great for ev­ery­one con­cerned to win a pres­ti­gious race. Jockey Danny Cook af­ter win­ning the Char­lie Hall Chase at Wetherby on Definitly Red

PIC­TURE: RICHARD SELL­ERS/PA

GOOD FUN: Definitly Red and jockey Danny Cook jump on their way to win­ning the bet365 Char­lie Hall Chase at Wetherby on Satur­day – the first York­shire win­ner of the race­course’s show­piece steeplechase since 1987.

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