Kelly eyes Kempton repeat
Will Hayler spoke to Lizzie Kelly about her 32Red.com King George VI Chase assignment on last year's Kauto Star winner, Tea For Two.
Tea For Two: Goes for the King George
Lizzie Kelly hopes that 'a write-off season' could be suddenly turned into another record-breaker when Tea For Two lines up in the 32Red.com King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day – but even if it doesn't, she is determined to make the most of having 'one of the best jobs in racing'.
Kelly broke new ground on the same card 12 months ago when Tea For Two, racing in the colours of her mum, Jayne, won the Kauto Star Novices' Chase, one of the Grade One highlights of the supporting card.
That success made Kelly the first female rider to enjoy top-level success over jumps in the UK, but her career has not snowballed in the way it might have done since and only a couple of months later she gave up a job at another yard to return home as an attached condtional.
Kelly continues to ride out on occasions at other stables but is pragmatic, both about the opportunities that have come her way since that victory less than 12 months ago, but also about the likelihood of her being able to clock up large numbers of winners, while attached to the yard of parents Nick and Jayne Williams.
"In a funny sort of way, I've got the best job in racing because I work for one yard who have got enough horses, we've got 35 horses and I ride 95 per cent of them and a lot of them are graded horses.
"The problems come in that I am riding a lot of them in graded races. I've ridden in a lot of graded races and not won very many of them. I mean, I'm looking at the moment at probably my worst season.
"It's December, I've had three winners and you know it's not gone well at all, the season has basically been a write-off.
"But I'm riding horses that are in seriously competitive races and you can't expect them to win every time. So you have to look at it from the perspective of 'Are the horses running well? Yes' 'Am I riding well? Yes' and that is as far as you can look.
"I have to look at my stats from a prize-money point of view rather than the number of winners or the percentage."
When it comes to prize-money, Tea For Two isn't doing too badly. He picked up £40,000 when winning the Kauto Star and got almost £14,000 for finishing second to Josses Hill in the Peterborough Chase last time.
A King George win, though, worth nearly £114,000, would take it to a new level. And Kelly is very happy with him ahead of the assignment.
"He's had a few issues with his back and things like that but I'm really pleased with him," she said.
"His jumping is very, very good and the fences come at the right time, in a funny sort of way. If you watch a replay of Huntingdon, he is desperate for another last, absolutely desperate, that long run-in from the last doesn't suit him at all, whereas at Kempton, you've got that extra fence and things like that make a difference.
"When I rode him at Exeter, for example, you turn in and you've got four fences still to go, and I was thinking 'I haven't actually gone for this horse yet, what is he going to do when I ask him to go long?'. He makes ground in the air because he has just got the longest stride. Some of the strides we were seeing at Huntingdon were just ridiculous.
"Things like that, everything sort of happens at the right time at Kempton.
"The problem we had at Ascot [when fifth on his seasonal reappearance] was that he just wanted to get on with it and unfortunately he just won the war because he just wanted to always be going long and you do use more energy going long than you would if you just popped.
"The horses that we put away at Huntingdon – I mean I know we didn't put away Josses Hill, but the rest of them are still good horses and he didn't look inexperienced in comparison to the rest of them, did he?
"He's got a lot of talent and he's very very capable. He's a very, very good horse."