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Brian Ellison lauds a top notch run
Montefeltro, ridden by Robert Tart, front centre, wins the Tote Super Trifecta Irish Cesarewitch at the Curragh. Pictures: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
THE scenes of joy experienced in the winner’s enclosure at the Curragh last Sunday are becoming ever familiar for Brian Ellison and his team.
Not that the Norton handler is tiring at any point of being able to cheer success. He waited a long time for it.
If the victories of Marsh Warbler, in the Finale Hurdle at Chepstow in January 2011, and Moyenne Corniche in the Ebor Handicap a few months later, whetted Ellison’s appetite for the big winner, then he has been tucking in with gusto in the last few weeks.
First Top Notch Tonto brought him his first Group winner on the Flat at Haydock – and saw a fevered Facebook campaign urging owners to send the Spring Cottage stables handler a top-class Pattern winner come up trumps.
Then, at the weekend, Montefeltro scooped 60,000 euros when beating Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien in his own backyard to win the Irish Cesarewitch.
Both of those wins though, brilliant as they are, would surely fade into relative insignificance if Ellison can hit the jackpot at Ascot on Champions Day tomorrow.
It’s Top Notch Tonto who steps forward again and takes a crack at the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on Britain’s richest raceday. His owner, Keith Brown, has stumped up £70,000 to supplement the gelding into the top-class field and Ellison is currently doing a rain dance.
The wetter it is, the more chance, he believes, his charge has of being in the frame in the £1 million contest.
“It has been a good year,” said a self-deprecating Ellison on a 2013 Flat campaign which has already brought record prize money. “You are always hoping that things go right – and you have your ups and downs – but we have had a good year.
“Top Notch Tonto is grand. After he won the Listed race at Redcar (the Guisborough Stakes) we were going to put him away but then it started raining and we decided to run him at Ascot. What makes the decision to spend the money is the weather.
“He is definitely a lot better on soft ground and he has won on heavy. He’s never had any soft ground for me yet.
“When he won the Group 3, people were saying it wasn’t a good race but the Godolphin horse (Tawhid) has come out and won since.
“He won at Redcar and he was giving away three pounds – over a trip that was too short.
“What goes through your mind is that you never know what is going to happen. We could go for a Group 1 next year but it could be good to firm.
“He has got his ground now. A lot of the runners might not go – but we go and we just want to be competitive.
“Ideally I want to finish in the first three and make some money for the owner. Fifth place gets £56,000 so it would cost him £14,000 overall then. But since he has won some money already he wants to go. If you are not in it you can’t win it.”
Montefeltro, meanwhile, bought for just £10,000 at Doncaster Sales in August, has proved to be a winning machine for Ellison.
The victor of an apprentice handicap at York on The Press Family Raceday, he subsequently hacked up at Yarmouth before really making his mark in the prestigious Cesarewitch.
Ellison is hoping greater glories could be on the horizon, with the Northumberland Plate, a self-confessed favourite race of the Geordie trainer, on his list of targets along with the Ebor.
“We thought that he would win at York and we just thought then about stepping him up in trip,” Ellison added. “We went over a mile and six at Yarmouth and he was blistering there and was well fancied.
“He’s got a good turn of foot for a horse that stays – but to go there and win was great. When he got in front, he wasn’t doing a lot, and there is probably a lot more to come. It’s nice to have these good horses.
“Robert Taft is a good rider and he gets on well with him. He gave him a waiting ride – it was a great ride.”
Associations with the Melbourne Cup, though, a race Ellison has tried to win with Moyenne Corniche and Saptapadi, could yet be wide of the mark.
“I don’t know where that’s coming from,” he said of the reports linking the horse with the mega-bucks contest. “It’s a long way to go and next year is another year.
“He’s a different type of horse. He’s more laid back, so much so he falls asleep, but he probably could turn out to be a horse that would do well there.
“He has that big turn of foot. They get racing early there and he will finish.
“Next year we will give him a couple of runs and get him ready for the Plate. He could go to the Ebor as well. He’s got the right profile. He’s well bred, stays well, with a turn of foot.
“He won’t mind a bit of cut in the ground and it was probably quick enough for him at the Curragh.”
Best of all for Ellison, thrilled with the progress he has made in the past couple of years, is that tomorrow brings the prospect of even brighter days.
While Flat stables are starting to shut down for the winter, the dual-purpose handler believes he has a string of jumpers who could make the cold weather months just as profitable a time as the summer has been.
Ellison said: “These horses show you where the yard is going. We just want to win those big races. I went and bought a lot of yearlings that I need to sell for next year.
“But we have also got some nice jumpers. It’s a bit too early to say how good they would be but Yesyoucan is rated 144, and Fleet Dawn won a £50,000 race.
“Powerful Ambition has improved a lot from last year and it’s great for the yard. If you are just on the Flat you are finished now. We have all these chasers in and it is exciting.”
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