York Races: Seamour’s focus on Northumberland Plate not Grand Cup Stakes, insists trainer Brian Ellison

Antiquarium ridden by James McDonald (centre, blue silks) beats Seamour ridden by Ben Curtis (right) to win the John Smith's Northumberland Plate at Newcastle last year. Picture: Anna Gowthorpe/PA
Antiquarium ridden by James McDonald (centre, blue silks) beats Seamour ridden by Ben Curtis (right) to win the John Smith's Northumberland Plate at Newcastle last year. Picture: Anna Gowthorpe/PA
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BRIAN ELLISON could not have been more candid when asked for an assessment of Seamour’s chances in today’s Grand Cup Stakes at York.

“It doesn’t bother me if he wins or not,” the Malton trainer told The Yorkshire Post. “As long as he wins the Plate.”

HIGH HOPES: Norton-based trainer Brian Ellison, left, with the owner of Seamour, Phil Martin.

HIGH HOPES: Norton-based trainer Brian Ellison, left, with the owner of Seamour, Phil Martin.

The Plate, as Flat racing’s devotees know, is Newcastle’s Northumberland Plate, which continues to elude this proud Geordie and adopted Yorkshireman.

Ellison was born in Newcastle on Plate day 65 years ago and Seamour – owned by Tickhill’s Phil Martin, whose colours were carried with such distinction during the winter by Definitly Red – had the race at his mercy last year before being caught in the shadow of the post. The defeat still rankles.

After a long lay-off, Ellison’s home-town race, on the first weekend in July, and November’s Melbourne Cup in Australia remain the long-term targets.

They are the two races that remain at the top of his personal ‘bucket list’ after Moyene Corniche won York’s Ebor in 2011.

It doesn’t bother me if he wins or not ... as long as he wins the Plate.

Brian Ellison

“I’m very happy with Seamour,” added the trainer. “He looks a picture.

“Mind, the ground will be quick enough. If it’s firm, I will take him out.”

The same is applicable to Peter Niven’s defending champion Clever Cookie – the North Yorkshire trainer is among those who have been on weather watch for the past week.

Yet, by all accounts, Charlie Appleby’s Frontiersman – owned by Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin operation – is a worthy favourite.

After winning at Newmarket’s Guineas meeting, today’s test over one mile, six furlongs looks ideal for a horse that could also be Melbourne-bound.

“He has come out of his win at Newmarket well,” said Appleby.

“We see the race as a bit of a fact-finding mission as we are stepping up in trip to a mile and three quarters and we are hoping that this might open doors for him in the future.

“He is a beautifully-bred horse – I couldn’t be happier with him and I feel that he has got this level in him.

“This race will, all being well, show us whether he is a horse to campaign in pattern mile-and-a-half races or make up into a ‘Cup’ performer.”

Frontiersman will be ridden by William Buick who was given the all clear to ride at the Epsom Derby meeting next Friday and Saturday.

A five-day interference ban incurred at York’s Dante meeting ruled Buick out of Epsom.

But, because it was downgraded to four days by the BHA yesterday after the rider lodged an appeal, there is discretion over the timing of the ban.

The 28-year-old rider can look forward to riding Jack Hobbs in the Coronation Cup on Oaks day.

Godolphin’s retained jockey is unlikely to be short of a ride in the Derby as racing manager John Ferguson said on Tuesday that there were “five names on the team sheet” for the premier Classic. These include Dante winner Permian from the Middleham yard of Mark Johnston.

Sprinter Havana Grey is Royal Ascot-bound after winning Sandown’s National Stakes.

The two-year-old, trained at Leyburn by Karl Burke, was ridden to victory by PJ McDonald who, 10 years ago, was winning the Scottish National on Hot Weld for Ferdy Murphy.

“He’s progressing nicely, which a lot of Karl’s horses do, and I think he will improve again,” said McDonald. “It would be hard not to go to Ascot with him.”