Page 56 - The Hunt - Spring 2019
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                the Saratoga Special. “Instead of quitting you’ve got to find the right balance for yourself, you know what I mean? People can judge you whatever way they want, but if you’re not happy doing something, you’ve got to make it right for yourself—or else you’re never going to succeed in anything.”
Trainer Janet Elliot
Steeplechasing has been a passion for Janet Elliot since she was a girl with
a pony. “I was brought up with it in Ireland, where steeplechasing is very big, and we often went to point-to-point races,” she says.
Fast forward to 1968. Elliot was looking forward to coming to the United States. She had been recruited to look after
an Irish horse, who was bound for the Olympics in Mexico City. Ultimately, the horse didn’t cross the Atlantic. But Elliot did, taking a job in Pennsylvania with Jonathan Sheppard, a trainer who was just beginning to rise in the ranks.
Elliot worked with Sheppard for
11 years, where her energy and love of horses served her well. Today, both are in
the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame. “I was hard working from the beginning,” she says.
In 1979, Elliot struck out on her own. At the helm of her own stable, she joined the top ranks of trainers. In 1986, she hit a milestone, training Census, the first winner of the Breeders’ Cup Steeplechase. She calls it a high point of her career, along with winning several Eclipse Awards. “It was at Fair Hill on the same day as the flat races cup,” she says. “He was a wonderful
horse, and I feel very fortunate to have trained him.”
In 1991, Elliot bested Sheppard
by two races, becoming the National Steeplechase Association’s champion trainer. She worked with the celebrated Victorian Hill, owned by Bill Lickle. She also trained Correggio, the Eclipse Award winner in 1996, and Flat Top, who won in 1998 and 2002.
In 2009, Elliot was elected to the Hall of Fame. The only other woman so honored was jockey Julie Krone. “It came as a huge surprise to me when I got the phone call,” Elliot recalls. “The day was wonderful,
exciting. One of my owners organized a cocktail party, a great celebration.”
As a trainer, Elliot looks for horses that are physically and mentally suited to a demanding sport. “You need a horse that has athletic ability and is obviously sound,” she says. “His attitude means quite a bit
to me, his disposition. You don’t want an animal that is fractious.”
Elliot looks for good owners, too.
“If you don’t have owners who are prepared to support you in what you do, you can’t do your best job,” she says. “I’ve been extremely fortunate in having great owners. It’s part of why I’ve been successful.”
In 1997, Elliot created the Woodville Award, named for her farm in Lancaster, Pa. Each year, the Woodville honors workers who labor behind the scenes and personify the best in steeplechase racing. Her advice for aspiring trainers?
“It’s hard to make a good living, so you have to go into it for the love of horses, the love of the sport,” she says. “If it’s work that you truly love, it will make you happy.”
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