FORMER Ryedale trainer Bill Elsey, widely regarded as the most successful Yorkshire trainer of his generation, has died, aged 97.

Elsey, a dual Classic-winning handler who retired in 1996, passed away on Wednesday night.

He left behind six children, six grandchildren and his second wife, Susie. Funeral arrangements have yet to be confirmed.

Elsey - born Charles William Carlton Elsey, in Ayr, Scotland, but always known as Bill - took over the licence at the famous Highfield Stables in Norton from his father, Charles, in 1961, becoming the third generation of his family to train. Bill's son, also Charles, likewise went into the profession.

The yard was by then one of the most powerful in England, especially the North, and Elsey went on to win the Oaks at Epsom with Pia in 1967 and the St Leger at Doncaster with Peleid in 1973 - saddling two Classic winners being the highlight of his stellar career.

Pia was ridden to success by Edward Hide, who had a long and successful association with Highfield.

Peleid, who was bred by owner Bill Behrens a few miles outside Malton, was ridden to glory by Frankie Durr at long odds of 28-1.

Elsey also won Group 1-class races in the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown Park, the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury and the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, as well as numerous top handicaps.

A big supporter of Yorkshire racing, he twice triumphed in the Ebor Handicap at York's famous meeting and the Lincoln Handicap at Doncaster.