AS the distinctive-looking Top Notch Tonto hit the front at York, the spontaneous roar from the 27,000-plus crowd spoke volumes about how the racing public has taken this proverbial rags-to-riches racehorse to their hearts.
It’s not just the chestnut colt’s white-face and white legs that are so unusual; it is the fact that this horse has been competing with distinction against some of Europe’s best milers despite being purchased as a yearling for just 3,000 euros by ever enthusiastic owner Keith Brown who grew up on Hull’s Hessle Road.
And it was the fact that this convincing win, in the Ian and Kate Hall Macmillan Ganton Stakes, was Top Notch Tonto’s first success since October 2013 when the horse’s eye-catching victory at Redcar was followed up by a gallant second-place finish behind Olympic Glory in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on Qipco Champions Day at Ascot.
In the intervening period, the Brian Ellison-trained horse has been beaten 12 times – and it would probably been an unlucky 13 defeats in a row until the rain gods intervened on Friday night to the relief of connections.
Both Top Notch Tonto and Richard Fahey’s Gabrial, winner of the Betway Lincoln at Doncaster in late March, were ridden with patience before the winner put the race to bed under a resurgent Silvestre de Sousa with a discernible burst of speed. “It was a bit of a relief, though not unexpected,” Brown told The Yorkshire Post. “He has run creditably for a few races – but with no luck. He was in Group Ones, drawn in the car park or on ground that was too hard.
“We have always believed that if he got his ground on the right track and on the right day, he wouldn’t be far away. The reaction of the crowd was fantastic. I’ve never heard a roar like it. It was a football-like roar. My Missus shouts louder at Tonto than she does at me! The horse means the world to everyone and the telephone hasn’t stopped ringing.”
As for the future, Malton-based Ellison has in mind the Group Two mile that forms part of Ireland’s champions weekend in September. Top Notch Tonto was second in the race last year and he believes there’s a greater likelihood of softer ground at Leopardstown. “He just needs a bit of give in the ground,” said the trainer. “It wasn’t soft at York, but he just doesn’t need firm in the going description. It’s one of the best days I’ve had racing in a long time.
“Everyone loves a winner at York but the reaction Tonto got was something else.”
Ellison was completing a double after Apterix won the Queen Mother’s Cup for lady amateur riders. Winning jockey Laura Wilson, one of the trainer’s stable staff, won her weight in Champagne.
Meanwhile Twilight Son maintained his unbeaten record in some style when beating 15 rivals in the 888Sport Charity Sprint. Trainer Henry Candy is renowned for his handling of speedsters and he has another top-class prospect on his hands.
However, with respect to winning connections, the most significant result of the day was that another £400,000 was raised for Macmillan Cancer Support. This was the 45th charity raceday at York and the amount raised since the inaugural event in 1971 now stands at £6.5m.
Star of Seville, winner of York’s Musidora Stakes last month, won the French Oaks yesterday under Frankie Dettori.