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Lizzie Kelly relishing new challenges out of the saddle

Lizzie Kelly may no longer be celebrating winners as a jockey following her retirement from the saddle in July, but her connection to racing remains as strong as ever judging by her latest venture.

Life has changed plenty for the 27-year-old, who became a mother for the first time last month, since calling time on her riding career. However, her enthusiasm for the sport that served her so well for more than a decade is now set to expand in a different direction.

Together with her husband of 18 months Ed Partridge, the Grade One-winning rider has turned her hand to buying and selling horses, along with continuing her association with breaking-in and pre-training young horses under the banner of their new operation, Valentine Bloodstock.

She said: “Ed and I were conscious at some point my career would be over one way or another. What we want to do is buy and sell young horses as we both have a huge amount of passion about young horses.

“I’ve broken in a huge amount of young horses and Ed was a head lad of a two-year-old barn at Archie Watson’s and has worked in quite a lot of pretty smart studs as well.

“It was pretty obvious that was the route we wanted to go down. We’ve already sourced a lot of young horses that we are now starting to see on the track.”

Lizzie Kelly and husband Ed Patridge at their Oakwell yard
Lizzie Kelly and husband Ed Patridge at their Oakwell yard (Lizzie Kelly)

Buying bloodstock may be a new concept for Kelly, but breaking-in horses and preparing them for life on the racecourse is something she is in her comfort zone with.

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She explained: “Breaking-in horses is something I’ve been doing for a decade and that is the part of the job I’ve loved the most. Being able to take that on and go further than that is exciting.

“The parting of the money is the scary bit! We took a punt on one the other day and spent £4,000 on it. You think ‘oh, this might not work’ but then you think we will give it a go and see what happens.

“We’ve got the facilities to take our time with horses, like this lad who just needs another year in the field. He went to the sales at the wrong time and we have picked him up for next to nothing and hopefully we will be rewarded.”

Hamilton Dici on his way to victory at Warwick before going under the hammer at Goffs on Thursday (Tim Goode/PA Images)
Hamilton Dici on his way to victory at Warwick before going under the hammer at Goffs on Thursday (Tim Goode/PA Images)

For most people 2020 has been difficult year following the coronavirus pandemic, but the couple received a timely boost for their operation on at Warwick last week after Hamilton Dici carried the Valentine Bloodstock silks to glory for the first time in a juvenile hurdle.

Kelly added: “It has been a bit of a slow burner really, but it is difficult as you can’t really go to the races and the sales are a bit awkward as well as you can’t connect and communicate with people in the same way you would have done.

“It was a real boost to see Hamilton Dici win and he is off to the Goffs sale on Thursday now and in time they will all have a ‘for sale’ sign around their neck.

“At the moment we’ve got about seven horses that are a range of ages, from foals to three-year-olds, in order to be able to sell across all the categories if you like

“In a few years’ time, once we have progressed we will try to buy a few point-to-pointers and get involved in that scene as well.”

Throughout Kelly’s riding career it was very much quality over quantity, which is an ethos she plans to have at the heart of Valentine Bloodstock.

She added: “The general idea is that we would have a small selection of horses, but ones that are high quality. That follows on from what my whole career was like.

“The industry seems fairly robust and the sales have not been affected (by the pandemic). I think if you have got the right product then people will still pay the money and we have seen that with the sales results all year.

“We have just got to build a reputation for the quality. It is really important for me that we are seen as people that produce quality horses.”

Lizzie Kelly on board Siruh Du Lac celebrates victory at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival (Paul Harding/PA)
Lizzie Kelly on board Siruh Du Lac celebrates victory at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival (Paul Harding/PA)

Although the two-time Cheltenham Festival-winning rider admits there are moments she misses the major meetings, she has no regrets about drawing the curtain down on her riding career to pursue a different path in the sport.

She said: “Of course there are days when I miss riding, it was such good fun.

“Mum (Jane Williams) said to me why don’t you stand on the scales and that is enough to make you think ‘oh God, I don’t think I could come back’.

“For all those big day winners, it’s the day-to-day sacrifices you make that makes the job so difficult. I miss it, but I don’t miss saunas!”

With racing running through the veins of the Devon-based couple, hopes are high their son Hugo Philip Partridge, who was born in November, will take up the family tradition one day.

She said: “Hugo has been very good to us as first-time parents. He is joyous and we are both absolutely made up to have him here healthy and sound.

“If he were to have a few rides as an amateur we would both be very proud.”

Zambella completes Listed double with game Warwick effort

Daryl Jacob praised the attitude of Zambella, who maintained her unbeaten record over fences with a front-running success in the feature Wigley Group Lady Godiva Mares’ Novices’ Chase at Warwick.

Having made a winning chasing debut in a Listed contest at Bangor last time out, the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained five-year-old followed up at the same level on her first start over two and a half miles.

Although jumping out to the right on occasion, the 9-4 favourite rallied gamely before finding plenty for pressure to defeat Midnightreferendum by three and three-quarter lengths.

Jacob said: “Zambella is a good jumper, but just occasionally lacks a bit of concentration at times in her races.

“It was good performance stepping up in trip and giving weight away, as it is not easy as there were some good mares in the race.

“I thought she ground it out nicely up the home straight.

“She’s getting a bit older and wiser – hopefully she’ll be a nice mare who we can place in the right races through the season and pick up some nice prize money.

Hamilton Dici and Chester Williams on their way to winning the Wigley Group Merry Christmas Juvenile Maiden Hurdle (Tim Goode/PA)
Hamilton Dici and Chester Williams on their way to winning the Wigley Group Merry Christmas Juvenile Maiden Hurdle (Tim Goode/PA)
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Former jockey, and new mum, Lizzie Kelly celebrated her first winner since quitting the saddle in July after Hamilton Dici landed the Wigley Group Merry Christmas Juvenile Hurdle.

The Jane Williams-trained four-year-old, sporting the silks of Kelly and her husband Ed Partridge’s Valentine Bloodstock Racing outfit, made all to deny Ambassador by a head.

Chester Williams, rider, said of the 11-2 winner: “It was a learning experience for him, but he did it well and is a first winner for Lizzie and Ed’s Valentine Bloodstock

“I’m really pleased for them as it is just the sort of horse you need to get started.

“He was still green enough there, but he picked up very well when the other horse came to him and that helped him after the last.”

Jay Bee Why left trainer Alan King pleasantly surprised after pulling clear in stylish fashion to claim the Wigley Group Support Our SMEs Maiden Hurdle by nine and a half lengths.

King said: “It is a bit of a surprise because I only thought he was just ready. I thought he was very good last season, but he completely boiled over before and during the bumper at Newbury.

“We tidied up his wind this season and I put a hood on him in the preliminaries today and he was good.

“I just hoped he would run a nice race and run properly today, but he looked quite useful.”

King d'Argent on his way to making a triumphant debut over fences at Warwick (Tim Goode/PA)
King d’Argent on his way to making a triumphant debut over fences at Warwick (Tim Goode/PA)

Dan Skelton has introduced a number of useful recruits to fences this season, and King d’Argent looked another judged on his three-length success in the Wigley Building & Development Novices’ Handicap Chase.

Skelton said of the 11-4 favourite: “To be fair, he was quite a good juvenile and he was fourth in the Fred Winter two years ago.

“He has blossomed since he started schooling over fences and I’m just delighted with the way he has attacked them and he really liked that.

“How high we can go, I don’t know, but that is a good start.”

Lorcan Murtagh partnered his first winner since joining forces with trainer Harry Fry after Might I (16-1) struck gold by a length and a quarter in the Wigley Group Daimler Powerhouse Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race.

The winning rider, who was previously based with Donald McCain, said: “He gave me a lovely feel. I got there a mile too soon, but there was nothing taking me into the race.

“I’ve been with Harry for two months now and that is my first winner for him, so it is nice to get that monkey off my back.”

Victory for Might I completed an across-the-card double for Fry, who was also on the mark at Taunton with Boothill.