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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”