Trainer of the Quarter - Brian Ellison
The TRM Trainer of the Quarter award has been won by Brian Ellison. Ellison and his team will receive a selection of products from the internationally acclaimed range of TRM supplements as well as a bottle of fine Irish whiskey.
By Oscar Yeadon
A familiar face on Britain’s northern racing circuit, first as a jockey and then as a trainer for the last three decades, the Yorkshire-based team of trainer Brian Ellison has established itself as one of the most potent dual-purpose strings in Britain.
Since moving into his Spring Cottage Stables, in Malton, in the early 2000s, Ellison’s record on both the Flat and over Jumps has improved both in terms of quantity and quality. The last five years have been particularly fruitful, including breakthrough black type winners on the Flat and the emergence of stable star, Definitly Red.
This autumn Definitly Red has reaffirmed his credentials as a genuine contender for the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March, following an unbeaten start to the current season with Gr2 victories at Wetherby and Aintree.
In the 2017/18 campaign, Definitly Red finished sixth in the Gold Cup after winning the Cotswold Chase, but won’t take in that race en route to the Cheltenham Festival in 2019. “I thought at the time he had had a hard race,” remembers Ellison, “but he’s in great form this year and we’ll keep him for Cheltenham, possibly followed by the Aintree Bowl. If the ground’s good or good to soft, he has a chance.”
If Definitly Red offers Spring Bank Stables a live hope in the Gold Cup, their recent Gr3 Greatwood Hurdle winner Nietzsche could uphold the team’s honour over hurdles at the spring festivals.
“Nietzsche travelled great and did well at Cheltenham. The tongue strap has helped since last year and while we have to see what does in the meantime, he may go to Cheltenham, as he does like it round there.”
If it’s the jumpers who have been adding to the yard’s haul of black type winners, the Flat string hasn’t been far away. The 2018 flagbearer was the top-class juvenile filly, The Mackem Bullet, who twice finished second to Ballydoyle’s leading 1000 Guineas fancy, Fairyland, in the Lowther Stakes and Cheveley Park Stakes.
Ellison has been quoted as saying that The Mackem Bullet is the best horse he has trained, and she ended her season with a more-than-respectable sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies’ Turf at Churchill Downs. “It was a great feeling to be at Churchill Downs. She was only beaten a length and a half for second, on soft ground. If it had been good, I think she would have been placed.”
The Mackem Bullet’s owner, Katsumi Yoshida, has kept his filly in the US where she may enter training or instead head to Japan to enter her owner’s breeding programme. Her departure leaves a sizeable hole to fill in the string for 2019, but Ellison is looking forward to the season ahead.
“At this moment in time, I think we have the best band we have ever had. Not necessarily of the quality of The Mackem Bullet, but the two-year-olds look nice, and we’re always trying to improve the quality of the string.”
Ellison’s enthusiasm is readily apparent but perhaps in a nod to his days in the saddle, you get the sense that his first love is National Hunt racing.
“I wish I had more jumpers; we have 30 or so at the moment, but in addition to Definitly Red and Forest Bihan, there is Windsor Avenue, who I rate very highly and should make a lovely chaser, and also Ravenhill Road.
“All you ever need as a trainer is one good horse.”