BRIAN Ellison retains every faith in stable star Top Notch Tonto ahead of the Ian and Kate Hall Macmillan Ganton Stakes at York – but is hoping the forecast rain arrives.
The mud-loving five-year-old is without a win since October 2013 – the month when the white-faced horse was a gallant second in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on Qipco Champions Day at Ascot.
Since then he has run several races on ground quicker than ideal and Ellison believes once there is enough cut in the ground, he still has all his old ability.
“We’re just hoping the rain comes, it’s always about the ground with him,” said the Malton trainer. “He ran a nice race first time out at Sandown behind David O’Meara’s Custom Cut but since then we may as well not have bothered.
“The ground was much too fast for him in the Lockinge and then at Haydock behind Cable Bay he was beaten before they’d set off by the draw. He had to come wide round the bend and you can’t do that against good horses. He’s working well and I’m happy but he really needs the rain.”
James Fanshawe’s Hors De Combat made big strides last year and while he was unplaced in the Lockinge behind Night Of Thunder, he was not disgraced in being beaten just over five lengths.
“He seems in good form but hopefully they don’t get too much rain,” said Fanshawe. “I thought he ran okay in the Lockinge and this doesn’t look as competitive. He’s in good shape, looks well and is training well but any rain wouldn’t be in his favour.”
Richard Fahey’s Gabrial has been running well in handicaps this season, winning the Lincoln, but has triumphed at Listed level before.
“He’s won the Lincoln already and has been running right up to his best. We put him in and thought we’d have a look and decided to take our chance,” said the Malton handler.
Ed Dunlop’s Chester Cup winner Trip To Paris has been supplemented for Thursday’s Ascot Gold Cup at a cost of £35,000.
Also a winner at Lingfield and Ripon this season, his progress showed no signs of stopping when second to Vent De Force in the Henry II after a troubled passage.
With slight doubts about the participation of the market leader Forgotten Rules on the account of fast ground, Dunlop and the owners, the La Grange Partnership, felt it was worth chancing their arm.
“This hasn’t been an easy call, but he’s a young, progressive stayer who enjoys quick ground,” said Dunlop. “If all of the principals turn up then we have plenty to find, but in all likelihood there will be a few significant defections with the ground good to firm and the forecast dry. His owners are keen to run and it’s impossible to knock such a sporting decision – here’s hoping it proves a fruitful one.”
The 19 possible runners include Yorkshire raider Clever Cookie for Malton trainer Peter Niven.