Ellis gets pass to an elusive big win

07 May 2019
 
Latenightpass gave trainer Tom Ellis an evening to remember at Cheltenham when winning the £8,000 Connolly’s RED MILLS Intermediate Point-to-Point Championship Final.
 
Warwickshire-based Ellis may be blazing a trail in the Foran Equine point-to-point trainers’ championship for yards with eight or more horses, yet in 14 seasons he had not saddled a winner under Rules. When it came it did so in fulfilling fashion, for Latenightpass is owned and was bred by his mother, Pip, and was ridden by his wife, Gina Andrews.
 
Ellis admitted: “I’m lost for words. We just came here for a good night out, and there was no pressure. This means everything – a first winner under Rules with a horse ridden by my wife and bred and owned by my mum. We have done everything with the horse, literally, from foaling to weaning to breaking and now racing – you can’t beat that. He’s mum’s horse and so he’s always been a bit bottom-of-the-pile at the yard; maybe now we’ll have to rethink that.
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“I’m so pleased to have won a national-sponsored series. Companies like Connolly’s RED MILLS are great for the sport, and I hope they got as much out of the race and being here at Cheltenham as we did.”
 
Six-year-old Latenightpass (11/1), the result of a mating between the stallion Passing Glance and the mare Latenightdip, led three out and pulled clear with two to jump, only to falter heading to the final fence. An untidy jump there did him no favours for he landed flat-footed, and for a moment it seemed his stamina had emptied, yet his ears were pricked.
 
If gawping at Cheltenham’s big grandstand was suddenly more important than landing the prize it was a perfect opportunity for Andrews to unfurl her repertoire of skills in the saddle and focus her mount’s mind. With the hope of Wales, Captain McGinley (14/1) under Bradley Gibbs, steadily reeling in the leader, Andrews cajoled her mount for one last effort and he passed the post half a length to the good.
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It was a moment to savour for the Ellis family, and another so-near, so-far occasion for Gibbs and the Captain McGinley’s owners, Beverley Thomas, John Griffiths and Adrian Simpson. They had also finished runner-up in the Connolly’s RED MILLS Final 12 months earlier, when the David Gibbs-trained Thegirlfrommilan was beaten by Fortune Bound, and the Ellis/Andrews axis was third with Kalabaloo.
 
Thomas, who trains Captain McGinley, said: “It’s just a privilege to be here and wonderful to reach the winner’s enclosure. It’s great that Cheltenham puts this evening on for us and that Connolly’s RED MILLS sponsor the race. I’m delighted for us and for the horse.
 
“At the top of the hill I had a nagging doubt that he would be involved in the finish, but Bradley said he jumped the second-last and found more.”
 
A further eight lengths behind came the Alex Edwards-ridden Salvatore (13/8f), who lost a good position just after halfway, yet rallied and finished third. Summing up the performance, trainer Philip Rowley, said: “To be honest I thought the horse was a monkey. I told the owners I thought about putting cheekpieces on him for this race, but yesterday he schooled really well and I thought we would leave it alone.
 
“With a circuit to go I was wishing we had fitted cheekpieces. For the first circuit he travelled and jumped, but then he lost ten lengths and was off the bridle. He was hampered a couple of times, and then finished like a steam train. He was a bit naughty, but maybe I’m being a bit harsh on him, because he’s only six and it was his first time on a licensed course. A few nights’ sleep often makes you come up with another opinion, and he’s finished in the winner’s enclosure at Cheltenham.”
 
The Connolly’s RED MILLS Final, the conclusion of a 14-race series of intermediate point-to-points held around Britain, was not on Latenightpass’s agenda until recently. Ellis said: “We qualified Pass The Glass for this race when he won the season’s first Connolly’s RED MILLS point-to-point at Brocklesby Park, but he’s young and needs time. Then King of The Clothe came into the picture, but he didn’t handle the hill at Mollington, so we ruled him out of this race, and that left Latenightpass.
 
“His dam was scanned in foal yesterday to Passing Glance, so is now carrying a full-brother or sister. We also have a four-year-old filly out of the mare called Latenightfumble who was running a big race until falling on her debut.
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“The great thing about this horse is his attitude. All he wants to do is gallop and win, but he was very green out there tonight. Don’t forget he’s a homebred who has only run in point-to-points.”
 
Latenightpass failed to win in his first season, but the formbook indicates he was a winner-in-waiting. In February last year, at Charing in Kent, he finished runner-up in a maiden race to Caryto Des Brosses, who later on the Cheltenham card finished second, just a neck behind Hazel Hill, the best hunter chaser on either side of the Irish Sea.