The 3-year-old gelding won’t feature highly in most people’s thinking, but you can understand why Ellison is having a go. For a start, the horse comes here in top form, after winning three of his last four races, and going down only by a short head in the other one. Those victories include a Listed and a Group 3 race, showing that he has progressed successfully from handicap company. In the process he’s gone up 28lbs to a mark of 115.
Ellison took heart from the way the form of Haydock’s Betfred.com Superior Mile is working out. He said, “If you look at the Group 3 race he won, the Godolphin horse (Tawhid) came out and won a Listed race, Montridge, who was favourite that day finished second in a Group 2 race (won by Soft Falling Rain, also in tomorrow’s field) and Highland Knight won a Group 3 on Saturday. His last win was good, giving 3lbs to Caspar Netscher, which is a good standard of form.”
Ellison and owner Keith Brown had initially planned to wind Top Notch Tonto down for the winter, but the £56,000 prize money for fourth place will be enough to repay most of the £70,000 he’s stumped up to run.
The second factor that tempted the pair was the likelihood of soft going. That isn’t a requirement for Top Notch Tonto, although he prefers some give in the ground, but Ellison realised it might mean the defection of some top quality horses from the race. Richard Hannon has already pulled Toronado out, and Aidan O’Brien has followed suit with Declaration Of War and Magician. Ellison is of the view that with the going now showing as soft Kingsbarns may not run either.
Jockey Dale Swift is excited at the prospect of taking on Dawn Approach and the other 10 horses declared yesterday. He said of TNT, “He’s been working brilliantly. He’s got every right to be there and there may be only eight or nine runners, maybe even less. He’s won a Group 3 and a Listed race last time despite not having his ground, and if anything under performs he could be there. Leading up to it is very exciting. Just to be there against those horses is great – it’ll be the highlight of may career.”