SOME luxurious hotels have fewer comforts than those being enjoyed by the equine residents at Brian Ellison’s Norton yard.
There are a few builders putting their kids through university on the work they are getting at Spring Cottage stables.
The diggers are there again, constructing a water-walker which will soon allow as many as five horses at a time to get some aqua benefits when they exercise.
That has come on the back of a 15-strong avenue constructed at the far end of the yard allowing some of the more particular guests – those who don’t like to be confined, those who windsuck or who have other breathing problems – to roam around a box without doors.
They even have a small garden in front.
The hard hats and the stream of planning applications – another two-dozen boxes will soon be installed on whatever scrap of land hasn’t been built on – has been supplemented by a new second yard.
Ellison has bought a 17-box stable with a large indoor school right next to the Highfield gallops from fellow trainer Neville Bycroft.
Such is the expansion, and the success, the trainer is having.
He came to Spring Cottage with barely 20 horses. Now he has more than 120.
He’s won an Ebor Handicap at York and won a Group and Grade 1 race over Flat and jumps.
But he wants more success and, after passing 100 winners for the first time in 2013, he’s prepared to spend to ensure it continues.
“It’s a fortune,” he admits as he surveys the work taking place to install the water-walker. “We had a five-year plan here where we bought the yard, we built stables and we had more horses.
“Hopefully, we won’t let that slide, we will keep having winners and now we have got horses that will run in Lincolns, horses that will run in Ebors, John Smiths and horses over hurdles that are going to Cheltenham.
“We are getting those kind of horses now and they are not always expensive.
“Yesyoucan only cost £4,000 and he is going to Cheltenham.
“We try to do everything to keep a horse happy. If they are happy, so are we.”
If they are miserable down in open-air alley, then they just can’t be pleased.
It was an innovative plan to build a selection of boxes for the more discerning customer.
Ellison, though, believes it is simply common sense. “They are for horses that either windsuck or have breathing problems and they are out in the open all the time,” he explains.
“Horses have to be happy, don’t they? If you don’t find out what the key is to them, they won’t win races.
“Some horses just don’t like being confined. Now they have got their open spaces, there are no doors on the boxes and it works.”
Ellison waited a long time to gets the numbers he has now. The Newcastle-born handler has always trained winners – and plenty of them too – but he has had to be patient.
While he has seen the numbers of some of his peers quickly rocket, they trickled in more slowly for him.
Then he claimed the Ebor Handicap, while Top Notch Tonto not only won him a Group 1 race at Haydock but almost sprang a massive shock when a runner-up in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot.
Only Olympic Glory was too good. Hugely talented horses like Kingsbarns, the 2,000 Guineas winner Dawn Approach and the Gimcrack winner Casper Netscher were left trailing in his wake.
“I have always wanted that,” he says of the numbers that are filling his yard to the very top. “Getting them is another thing entirely. But we have got some good owners in the yard.
“We have had November handicap winners and horses good enough to go to Melbourne. We were a small yard at that time and we had three horses go across to Australia.
“We have good people, like Kristian Strangeway and Dan Gilbert – they are very good at picking horses.
“When we go to the sales, they pick out the horses, I go and check them over and we are all in the same boat. We all want winners.”
Now, though, they have to be bigger and better.
Southwell, Catterick and Wolverhampton are all well and good. They all add to the tally. But, just like his horses, Ellison is getting a taste for the finer things in horseracing life.
He says: “It’s great having 100 winners, which we have done, but we need to be targeting York and places like that.
“We’ve got some nice two-year-olds as well and this year we went out and bought around 20, which is more than we have ever had.
“Don’t get me wrong, I want winners and when you send any horse out you want it to be first. You want to have Saturday horses, you want to be hitting big races. We will keep trying.”
They will start with Top Notch Nonto. The Lockinge at Newbury in May is the target for the talented four-year-old and Ellison must be one of the few trainers in the country who hasn’t minded the incessant downpours this winter.
His soft ground dependant horse will revel in conditions underfoot.
Spring Cottage Stables, however, is not reliant on a one-trick pony.
“Top Notch is rated 118 and he’s my best horse but I have got some nice horses that are lower rated that will probably end up around that level,” he explains.
“I’ve got a couple that I think will be rated over 100 by the end of the season. I’m really looking forward to seeing Bishop’s Castle and I have got a really nice horse we bought in France called Baraweez.
“It’s great for everybody. We are all a team, all a family. Everybody gets excited when we have a winner.
“We’ve got good staff. The sun is shining. Life’s good.”