Brian Ellison – Searching for ‘Top Notch’ hurdler

Brian Ellison

Brian Ellison set for exciting winter

Brian Ellison is fast becoming one of the very best dual-purpose trainers. Born in Newcastle back in the 50’s, he is based in North Yorkshire at Spring Cottage Stables, in Norton near Malton.

A keen footballer in his youth, his height became a barrier towards pursuing that dream and at the age of 15 he left school in search a career in horse racing. He started as a stable lad for trainer Harry Blackshaw before becoming a conditional jockey at the age of 17 for Mr. R. Lamb. He rode his first winner at Hexham in only his second race, with his most memorable success in the saddle coming in 1976 when, in a handicap chase, he rode Tex to victory over the legendary Tingle Creek.

He continued to ride even after taking out his full training licence in 1989. He started training from rented stables at Malton before moving to Lanchester in Co Durham. Those early years were tough with winners hard to come by. Things gradually improved and in 2000 he finally had the opportunity to purchase his own yard at Malton. He moved into Spring Cottage Stables with around 30 horses.

Ellison now has over 100 in training both on the flat and over jumps. His most famous inmate is Top Notch Tonto who was second in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot in 2013. It’s fair to say that he has found greater success on the flat in recent years and the exploits of ‘Top Notch’ has certainly raised the profile of this amiable northern trainer.

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His achievements on the flat have not caused him to lose focus on the winter National Hunt campaign. As he says on his racing website: “I don't care if it's flat or jumps, I just want winners. Winners make everyone happy, owners, staff and especially my bank manager! I am lucky in the fact I am supported by some good owners and I have a fantastic team behind me.”

That philosophy is backed up by the fact that he already has over 20 winners over obstacles this winter and prize money of more than £140,000. Recent form is good with two winners and three placed horses in his last ten runners. On Sunday Yorkist was a comfortable winner in a novice chase at Carlisle. The six-year-old has taken well to fences and looks sure to have further success as the season progresses.

At the same meeting Ellison ran an exciting looking novice hurdler. Zaidiyn failed to win what became a farcical race when only four obstacles were jumped due to the low sun. Beaten by a horse better suited to the ground, he nevertheless looks to be a promising sort, and is likely to win a fair few for his trainer over the winter.

The Grey Taylor is another novice hurdler likely to give Ellison and his team plenty of exciting days in the months ahead. Already twice a winner at Wetherby, this scopey grey, a son of Royal Anthem out of a Roselier mare has recently arrived from Steve Gollings’ yard. The owner, Mr PJ Martin, has a large number of horses in both camps, but this fella is one in particular that looks to have a bright future.

Gone Forever is another under the same ownership who won impressively at Market Rasen in November. Yet another novice hurdler, he’s bred to ‘stay’ well and it would be no surprise to see him competing at a higher level in the spring. The yard also has Racing Europe, again owned by Mr Martin. The horse won an Irish point to point before running well in two bumpers behind very decent types. He is rated highly by the stable and is likely to start out over hurdles at Market Rasen later this week.

It’s set to be an exciting winter for the man from Newcastle. There’s little doubt that the quality within the yard is better than ever. He has a large number of talented novices going into battle over the coming months and he must be hopeful that he is on the verge of uncovering a National Hunt stable star to rival his ‘flat’ hero Top Notch Tonto.

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