Cheltenham Festival Preview – Jockey Lizzie Kelly is sick with anticipation

Cheltenham Festival Preview – Jockey Lizzie Kelly is sick with anticipation
Lizzie Kelly wins on Tea for Two. Photo: Julian Herbert

Lizzie Kelly wins on Tea for Two. Photo: Julian Herbert

The Cheltenham Festival effects different people in different ways. Most people are excited. But Lizzie Kelly wanted to vomit – and she’s a jockey!

She has ridden once at the Festival and recalls that the experience made her “feel quite sick”. But the prospect of her riding there again this year she describes as: “absolutely amazing”.

Tea For Two, who she rode to victory in the Lanzarote Hurdle in January, has two entries for Cheltenham. All being well the gelding will either race in the Grade 1 Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle on March 11th, or the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle two days later.

Lizzie says: “The Cheltenham Festival is not the be all and end all. We’re perfectly happy to go off to France or go elsewhere because a lot of people have broken their horses by getting a bit too overexcited and running them at the Festival.”

She is referring to her family. Mother Jane, who co-owns Tea for Two, and her stepdad Nick, who trains the six year old gelding.

Last November Lizzie impressed all watching when winning the Grade 3 Fixed Brush Hurdle on Aubusson. A victory that prompted sole owner Jane and trainer Nick to enter the gelding for the Grade 1 Ladbroke World Hurdle at the festival (March 12th).

Lizzie Kelly

Lizzie Kelly

Lizzie says: “People sometimes make the assumption that it’s easier because I ride for my family. That couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s much harder, because you realise the work that’s gone in, and you also realise the consequences of winning a big race like the Fixed Brush and you don’t want to let those people down.

“But I think I’m fully aware of what I’ve set out to do. So far, touch wood, I’ve escaped any major injuries. My mum wouldn’t want to see me hurt myself but she’s not going to stop me from riding for that reason.

“There was no point me carrying on as an amateur because the money you spend just being an amateur is ridiculous, and the fact that I’m now able to make a career out of something that I love means more to them than me having a broken leg or something.

“I’ve come into this like being in business. I’m not just here to ride my mum’s horses in nice big races and get an occasional winner. I’m here to be doing this day in and day out and living it.”

Lizzie has secured a post as conditional stable jockey to the trainer Neil King. I think it’s safe to say she’ll be riding winners for a few years to come. And she’s looking even further ahead.

“If I’m on my deathbed in sixty years’ time and I haven’t done this, that will hurt more than a broken leg. As a 10-year-old girl, this is what I wanted to do. I’m here doing it, and I see myself in this hopefully for a good long time.”

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