Get in touch: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting YOGAZ to 80360 or send an email»
Trainer Brian Ellison hopes for top drawer Ascot display
BRIAN ELLISON, having bagged a major handicap triumph last weekend when bargain buy Montefeltro won the Irish Cesarewitch at the Curragh, will be on the warpath of Group 1 glory on Champions Day at Ascot on Saturday in a £1 million race.
The Norton trainer has ambitiously supplemented his stable star Top Notch Tonto into the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at a cost of £70,000 to owner Keith Brown.
“We gave it a lot of thought over the weekend and felt it was a gamble worth taking, especially as the weather was turning wet,” explained Ellison.
“The softer it is at Ascot the better our horse will like it, and the softer it is, the more likely it will be that some of the main horses entered either won’t like it or won’t turn up.”
Top Notch Tonto, previously trained by the now-disqualified Ian McInnes, was transferred to Ellison in early summer and has made rapid strides with three wins in handicap company, a Listed race and a Group 3 contest.
“He’s rated 115 now, so it’s not like we’re protecting a handicap mark with him, because he won’t be running in handicaps again,” said Ellison, who, although a Grade 1-winning trainer over jumps, has never enjoyed the opportunity of capturing a Group 1 event on the Flat.
The Spring Cottage trainer could hardly be in better form. Montefeltro, bought for only £10,000 at Doncaster Sales in August, has since proved a winning machine for Ellison, who, having placed the gelding to triumph at York and Yarmouth, completed a resounding hat-trick with the gelding in last Sunday’s prestigious Irish Cesarewitch.
Once again ridden by apprentice Robert Tart, Montefeltro clinched the long distance handicap, which carried prize money of 60,000 euros, by a length and a half from the Aidan O’Brien-trained Marchese Marconi.
“The ground was like a carpet, but he prefers it even softer,” said Ellison. “He’s a horse with a massive turn of foot and you have to leave him alone during a race and ride a waiting race on him. Robert gets on well with him.”
Previously trained over jumps by John Ferguson, who placed him to win one hurdle race, Montefeltro had formerly been part of the Godolphin establishment in Newmarket and was trained on the Flat – he failed to win in three outings – by Mahmood Al Zarooni, who lost his licence earlier this year after being found guilty of administering prohibited substances to several of his horses.
“Dan Gilbert (a good supporter of the Ellison stable and now one of the owners of Montefeltro) picked him out at Doncaster,” said the trainer. “We agreed we’d buy him for up to £20,000 and we got him for half that. Although he has won over hurdles, he’s a horse who is not in love with jumping and we bought him as a Flat horse.”
Future plans for Montefeltro will not include any immediate racing targets. “That’s it for the season. He’s going to have a break now,” said Ellison.
There is no break for the trainer. Ascot beckons and the potential of much excitement and massive rewards as Top Notch Tonto dips his toe into Group 1 waters for the first time as he bids for a share of that £1 million on offer.
RYEDALE’S top-rated hurdler will be conspicuous by his absence this season.
Countrywide Flame, winner of two Grade 1 races and a close-up third to Hurricane Fly in last season’s Champion Hurdle, has suffered a setback in training which has ruled him out for the whole of the campaign.
Norton trainer John Quinn explained: “He kept going intermittently lame, so we got him bone-scanned and there was a shadow on a hind joint, which highlighted a stress fracture.
“He’s going to need three months off, but he’s too good a horse to rush, so we’ll give him six months, so he’s not going to be running over jumps this season.”
Winner of the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham in 2012, Countrywide Flame bagged his second Grade 1 triumph at Newcastle last December when winning the Fighting Fifth Hurdle, a success which came hot on the heels of an excellent effort on the Flat at Newmarket where he was narrowly beaten in the Cesarewitch Handicap.
“What has happened is disappointing for the owners and everyone concerned,” said Quinn, who trains Countrywide Flame for Estio Pinnacle Racing. “But he’s only five and has time on his side. We’ll bring him back next year and try again to win a Cesarewitch with him.”
Dual-purpose trainer Quinn, who will be on the prowl at Newmarket at the end of this month searching for fresh jumping talent at Tattersalls Horses-in-Training Sales, could have a future hurdler on his hands in El Beau, who opened his account on the Flat at Ayr last week.
Tough and genuine, the juvenile not only promises to develop into a decent handicapper next season but also has the potential to transfer his ability to hurdles in due course. He is in the right stable to fulfil that potential under both codes.
DAVID O’MEARA may have drawn a blank at York’s closing two day meeting last weekend, but he still managed to wrest the Knavesmire trainers’ championship from Malton’s Richard Fahey, who had clinched the title for seven successive seasons.
Nawton’s O’Meara, who sent out ten winners on the course this year, including three at the Ebor Festival in August, said: “We’ve had a good year, especially at York, and it’s all down to a big team effort. It’s good that the leading trainer title at the course has remained in Yorkshire.”
Fahey, who went on to enjoy a four-timer on Monday, had clinched the championship in the final race of York’s season last year, but he was unable to repeat the feat this time around.
He ended up with eight Knavesmire successes, including the Group 2 Yorkshire Cup with Glen’s Diamond in May, after Dusky Queen prevailed on Friday to leave him two shy of O’Meara’s tally.
Dusky Queen, who started at 14-1, won by half-a-length from O’Meara’s Monakova to provide Samantha Bell with her first winner at York.
Bell, who had won for her boss on Bayan Kasirga at Catterick earlier in the week, joined Fahey at the beginning of the year from the Curragh stable of Kevin Prendergast after riding 10 winners in Ireland.
She went on to enjoy a career-first double at Musselburgh on Monday with Bayan Kasirga again doing her a good turn, along with the Linda Perratt-trained Tadalavil.
York’s top jockey award was won by Ryan Moore with 10 winners.
TONY COYLE was celebrating his first York win after City Zen came good under Barry McHugh to gain a deserved success in Friday’s juvenile maiden.
The speedy daughter of Baltic King got home by a neck and a head in a thrilling finish to continue an excellent run for Coyle, who said: “She deserved that as she’s run some very good races, including when finishing third in a Listed race here at the August meeting.”
City Zen will not run again this season and although entered in the Tattersalls sales at Newmarket, it has not yet been decided whether she will go under the hammer.
While City Zen cost only £8,000 at the breeze-up sales earlier this year, Mayfield Boy was an even cheaper purchase, having been bought as a yearling for only £3,000.
Owned and trained by Mel Brittain, the son of Authorized won York’s other maiden race on Friday in the hands of David Allan, looking very much a bargain in the process.
THE bold decision by Norton trainer Ollie Pears to have a crack at York’s final big two-year-old race of the season produced an agonising outcome when his representative No Leaf Clover went down by a head to Mushir after totally outrunning his 20-1 odds.
“I’ve always thought he was a good horse. He was unlucky not to win at Ayr last month,” said Pears, after the photo-finish went against him in the Rockingham Stakes to foil the trainer’s first Listed-race success.
Ironically, Pears has only four two-year-olds in training, whereas Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, owner of the winner Mushir, must have about 50 times more juvenile ammunition to draw on.
Comments are closed on this article.