In 1997 Spur magazine published a list of the 100 most important people in the equine industry and included steeplechase trainer Janet Elliot. Imagine what the editors of the now defunct Spur would think after she became the first woman trainer and the second woman elected to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.
Elliot, who learned from one of the best, fellow Hall of Fame steeplechase conditioner Jonathan Sheppard, holds just about every record imaginable when it comes to women trainers, and she has more than held her own against men. Her horses have led the National Steeplechase Association’s annual earnings list six times. Through 2008 Elliot ranked third on the all-time earnings list, with $7,580,234. Her lifetime total of 355 NSA wins through April 17 this year ranks among the best.
Elliot won the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Steeplechase with Census in 1986, several years after leaving Sheppard and obtaining a trainer’s license. In 1991 she became the first woman to win an NSA trainer’s championship.
Growing up in her native Ireland, Elliot attended a riding school and became interested in various aspects of the horse world. She came to the United States to work as a groom at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, but things fell through. Instead, she visited friends in Pennsylvania and later hooked up with Sheppard.
Elliot’s runners have earned three Eclipse Awards. Irish-bred Correggio won top honors in 1996 when he was steeplechase’s leading earner. Flat Top, the 1998 and 2002 champion, was the leading earner both years. Flat Top won the 2002 Breeders’ Cup Steeplechase.
Census, in 1984 and 1986, and another of Elliot’s runners, Victorian Hill, in 1991, also topped the earnings list.
In addition to the Breeders’ Cup Steeplechase, Elliot’s runners have won runnings of such prestigious jumping events as the Carolina Cup, Georgia Cup, Iroquois, Temple Gwathmey, National Hunt Cup, New York Turf Writers Cup, and the A.P. Smithwick Memorial.