By Lyle Carter
High in the sky over Canada and the United States, Ryan Ellis has enjoyed some great views from the cockpit.
Ellis, 32, is a pilot with Air Canada Jazz, handling the controls of 50 to 75-seat planes at flight speeds reaching 500 km/h.
The Stewiacke native is also familiar with another kind of speed in his role as one of the Maritimes outstanding young harness racing drivers.
"I've had Walter Chevrie and other race drivers joke around with me over the years," said Ellis, who now lives in Brookfield. "They say I have a need for speed. I do enjoy flying, I've had an interesting 10-year career as a pilot. It has taken me to a lot of places. I feel very fortunate for sure to be able to manage both flying and driving race horses."
Ellis, who has won five races on a single race card on two occasions this summer at Truro Raceway, is excited about Atlantic Grand Circuit Week, which kicks off tomorrow afternoon at Truro Raceway.
"This is a big week for harness racing," said the 2011 driving champion and the Bible Hill oval's leading dash winner again this year with 30 visits to the winner's circle. "It's a great opportunity for some good publicity for our sport. I think every horseman feels this way.
"Top horses will ship in from all over the Maritimes," he said. "There will be very competitive and fast racing. We should have some big crowds. This is all good for the sport."
Ellis owns and drives six-year-old Expressly Hanover, an entry in tomorrow's feature race for Atlantic aged pacing mares.
"She won here in Truro earlier this year in 1:57," he said. "There will be some good mares in this race. It's going to be very competitive. Hopefully, we'll catch a break."
Approaching Truro's big race week, Ellis took time away from barn duties and training and exercising horses to be interviewed by Trot Magazine and to appear on CTV's Breakfast Television.
"I'm only too glad when harness racing receives some good publicity," he said. "It's a good thing to let people know about the sport."
Besides driving Expressly Hanover tomorrow, Ellis is hopeful another horse he owns, San Marco Hanover, draws in as well.
Tuesday night he expects to drive at least two entries in the Atlantic Sires Stakes for two-year-old pacing fillies. Catch drives are also a likelihood.
"Most of my drives are catch drives," he said. "Trainers and owners often put me down on their horses. The better things are going for a driver, the more horses he'll get a chance to drive."
Ellis is volunteering July 28 when Truro Raceway presents an open house to provide the general public the opportunity to meet harness racing trainers and drivers while getting a close-up look at standardbred horses.
"I think this is a real good thing. I'm looking forward to taking part. I'll be one of the drivers who will take people around the track behind a horse. They will sit in a second jog cart seat. It will give fans a good feel for what it's like out there on the track. It's also good promotion."
Ellis was first introduced to harness racing as a youngster in the 1980s. His father, Wayne Ellis, owned and trained horses, which raced at Sackville Downs and Truro Raceway.
"I soon began looking up to Phil Pinkney, Danny Romo and a long list of drivers," he said. "Darren Crowe helped me an awful lot in getting started in harness racing. Darren gave me my first winning drive behind Glengyle Bruiser in 2007."
In recent years, Ellis has been a fixture in the Darren Crowe Stable at Truro Raceway. The two outstanding horsemen have become best of friends.
The Atlantic Sires Stakes for two-year-old pacing colts will be featured Thursday night, the Maritime's best three-year-old pacing colts and the Exhibition Cup Invitational will highlight Saturday night's program and Sunday afternoon, July 29, the Frank and Beth Stanfield Memorial for three-year-old fillies will be the feature.
Lyle Carter's sports column appears every Saturday in the Truro Daily News. If you have a story idea, contact him at 673-2857.