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Ellison seeking Caspian Caviar Gold with Windsor Avenue

Brian Ellison is anticipating a big run from Windsor Avenue in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup after the eight-year-old’s encouraging return at Carlisle.

Windsor Avenue began his campaign by finishing a two-and-a-half-length runner-up to the highly-progressive Imperial Aura in the Colin Parker Memorial Intermediate Chase at the start of last month.

He has been allotted an initial weight of 11st 3lb, with Harry Whittington’s Cheltenham Festival winner Simply The Betts and Paul Nicholls’ Master Tommytucker topping the list on 11st 12lb for next week’s big Cheltenham handicap.

Ellison reports Windsor Avenue has benefited from wind surgery, after an early end to his promising novice-chase campaign in January.

The Malton trainer said: “At the moment, Windsor Avenue definitely runs in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup.

“He won his first two chases nicely last season, and then he had a problem with his wind.

“We eventually sorted that over the summer – he had a soft palate hobday – and we were very pleased with what saw at Carlisle for a first run back.”

Cheltenham Festival winner Imperial Aura has since taken his successful sequence to three, with a Grade Two triumph at Ascot, and is being touted as a major contender for next year’s Ryanair Chase.

Windsor Avenue received 4lb from his Carlisle conqueror, and Ellison added: “Overall, I thought the Colin Parker looked a good race – and the form seems to be working out that way, given what the winner did at Ascot.

“That run definitely brought our lad on a bit, and it will be interesting to see how gets on in a handicap. Touch wood, his jumping is great, and he won’t be ridden too far away anyway.

“I will be going there expecting a big run, because I think a lot of him – and always have done.”

Among his potential rivals over two and a half miles on December 12, Evan Williams’ shock Paddy Power Gold Cup winner Coole Cody (10st 12lb) may return in search of a famous double.

Kerry Lee’s mare Happy Diva (11st 4lb) was the 2019 Paddy Power winner, and still in contention when falling two out in defence of her crown last month.

Recent Newbury winners Clondaw Castle (11st 10lb) and Caribean Boy (11st 9lb) are also of obvious note – as are Ascot scorers First Flow (11st 9lb) and Espoir De Guye (11st 5lb).

Definitly Red heads Ellison’s powerful weekend squad

Brian Ellison has the three best National Hunt horses in his care entered this weekend – with Definitly Red topping the bill in the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.

A previous winner of the Grade Two race in 2018, Definitly Red could only finish fourth behind Ballyoptic 12 months ago.

He was being prepared for a crack at the Grand National last season, which of course never happened, but Ellison feels the long break may have done him some good.

Winning connections with Definitly Red after his Charlie Hall win two years ago
Winning connections with Definitly Red after his Charlie Hall win two years ago (Richard Sellers/PA)

“He’s very well and seems in great form,” said the Malton trainer.

“Because of what happened last spring, he didn’t get to go for the National, so he’s had a good holiday.

“He’s never been a horse we’ve over-raced, though – we’ve always looked after him.”

Definitly Red has been partnered for the majority of his career by Danny Cook – but Henry Brooke will be in the plate on Saturday, with Cook sidelined by an eye injury.

“I spoke to Danny on Monday night, and he’s gutted he can’t ride, but Henry’s ridden him before – so we’re not worried on that score,” said Ellison.

Ellison also has Forest Bihan, last seen beating Kalashnikov in the Old Roan Chase just over a year ago, and Windsor Avenue entered at Carlisle on Sunday.

“Forest Bihan might not go to Carlisle – he might just wait for Cheltenham and the Shloer Chase,” he added.

“There’s a lot of rain forecast at Carlisle, and that wouldn’t suit him.

“Windsor Avenue definitely runs (in the Colin Parker Memorial).

“He’s had his wind looked at since he last ran, his soft palate looked at. His wind was affecting him. He’s been hobdayed, too.

“We had it looked at early on, but we’ve finally had it done. He’s absolutely flying at home and is still unexposed – he’s a very good horse.”