ONE of the region's top racehorse trainers who twice claimed Classic winners has died.

Bill Elsey died on Wednesday, January 2 at the age of 97.

Born Charles William Carlton Elsey, in Ayr, Scotland, but always known as Bill, he took over the licence at Highfield Stables in Norton, near Malton, from his father, Charles, in 1961, becoming the third generation of his family to train.

Mr Elsey went on to win the Oaks at Epsom with Pia in 1967 and the St Leger at Doncaster with Peleid in 1973.

Other big race victories followed in the Lockinge Stakes and St James’s Palace Stakes, while he twice won the Ebor and Lincoln Handicaps, including the latter, with K Battery, in 1986.

He retired from training in 1996.

Fellow Malton trainer Richard Fahey said: "He was a gentleman, and really old school. I rode for him when I first came to England in my 20s, 22 years ago.

"He was ahead of his time and I was proud to ride for him. It was in his twilight years but there is a lot of respect for him in the Malton racing community.”

Trainer John Quinn also described Mr Elsey as a gentleman.

He said: "He was a top class trainer and I rode one of his last big winners, State Jester in 1989 ay Haydock.

"He had a big reputation in the Malton area. Very few trainers managed to train two Classic winners like he did, and it hasn't been surpassed yet."

His son Charlie Elsey, who also trained, said: "He was very modest and was certainly not one for blowing his own trumpet, but he had those two Classic winners and plenty of big handicap victories and wins in races that are now Group 1s.

"He had the luck to take over a championship stable from his father and I think he felt the pressure of that sometimes, but through the 1960s he sent out the largest number of winners for many seasons."

Elsey had a long partnership with top northern jockey Edward Hide, who said: "My association with Highfield and the Elsey family began in 1953 and I continued to ride for Bill after he took over from his father in 1961 until I went south in 1968.

"In those years I rode over 300 winners for him notably Henry The Seventh, who won the Cambridgeshire and the Eclipse, and Pia who won the 1967 Oaks. He was well respected and his record speaks for itself. I continued to ride for him until I retired."