Ellison hopes Saptapadi can overcome big Ebor hurdle

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BRIAN Ellison is “very hopeful” that he can win a second Betfred Ebor today with Saptapadi and complete the most remarkable training performance of his racing career.

Saptapadi is a horse who has won just one of his 25 career starts and who was well-fancied to win Europe’s richest handicap – the signature race of the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival – when stablemate Moyenne Corniche prevailed in 2011 at 25-1.

Both then had campaigns in Australia with Saptapadi 16th to Dunaden in the Melbourne Cup – the race that stops Australia – and Moyenne Corniche was retired after breaking down.

“He ran well two years ago and he is a little lower in the weights and crept in at the bottom of the handicap,” Malton-based Ellison told the Yorkshire Post.

“I think he will run a good race. Two races ago, he ran well at Goodwood but he found Ascot too fast last time out and I’ve dropped him back from two miles to this trip. A bit of rain will help.

“We left him out in Australia for a year after the Melbourne Cup and he didn’t really settle so the owners – Koo’s Racing Club – bought him back and he’s since come down in the weight a fair bit, which is a definite plus today.

“You have to remember that he’s been running in these big handicaps; that’s why he only has one win to his name, though it would have been nice to have sneaked a race to boost his confidence.”

Like trainers throughout Malton and Norton, Ellison will be opening his stable doors to the public tomorrow for an open day ahead of Beverley’s afternoon fixture and he hopes the 2013 Ebor winner can be the star attraction.

In a slightly unorthodox preparation, Ellison has spent the past week schooling Saptapadi – the mount of locally-based Barry McHugh – over hurdles at his Spring Cottage Stables.

“I don’t know if we’ll go down that route, but it has just freshened the horse up because it is something different,” said the trainer.

“I’d love to win the Ebor again. It was fantastic two years ago, something you don’t forget. It’s good, not just for me but the family, the yard and the whole of Yorkshire racing.

“This year’s Grand National and Dante winners come from Yorkshire. The Ebor? It would be some hat-trick.”

Asked to sum up Saptapadi’s chances in two words, Ellison said without hesitation: “Very hopeful.”

It will not be easy. Sir Michael Stoute’s Royal Ascot winner Opinion is the likely favourite; he is one of two runners for Highclere, who also run Guarantee as Yorkshire-born William Haggas seeks a first success in York’s signature race.

This has already been a landmark week for Highclere, who recorded their 400th winner when Stoute’s Telescope galloped into the St Leger reckoning.

Tiger Cliff carries the hopes of Lady Jane Cecil and would be an immensely popular winner after her husband Sir Henry’s death; he won this race 15 years ago with the Kieren Fallon-ridden Tuning.

Locally, David O’Meara saddles Tropical Beat while Middleham’s Mark Johnston runs Oriental Fox. The Markus Graff-owned horse was successful in Switzerland before switching to North Yorkshire and was unlucky during a messy Shergar Cup race at Ascot. “He’s the right kind of horse,” said Johnston, who saddled Quick Ransom to Ebor glory in 1992.

York round-up: Page 10.