Lizzie Kelly: From Riding Winners to Pre-Training Them

Last year, at the age of 27, Lizzie Kelly announced she was quitting the saddle to start a family, retiring with immediate effect. Lizzie made an enormous mark on the racing world, becoming the first female to win a Grade 1 in Britain when she rode Tea For Two to victory in the 2015 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase.

Since retiring, Lizzie and her partner Ed Partridge launched their very own bloodstock agency, Valentine Bloodstock. We spoke to the 2017 Betway Bowl winner about her business and what her newfound career entails.

Lizzie said, “What Ed and I do is deal in bloodstock, so we’re buying and selling horses. We were very lucky that we were able to set up our own business, which is named after a horse that we unfortunately lost, Sparky Valentine.

“We buy yearlings and two-year-olds, unbroken, from the studs, and also do the more normal stuff like buying from the sales and buying horses in training for owners and trainers. We also break horses in, which is the method of turning a horse that has never been ridden into the sort of racehorses that we see today.”

The goal at Bloodstock Valentine is not only to produce talented racehorses, it is to produce and sell horses that can have a long and successful second career when their time on a racetrack comes to an end.

“The ethos that we have and work by is that the methods we use and results we expect when breaking in a horse should set a horse up for life. The way that we view it is that we’re setting up a horse for its racing life and we hope that the horse will use its body correctly, learn to jump properly, learn to come out of the stalls properly, travel nicely in your hands, etc.”

“We also want a horse to be well-mannered, be able to stand still at a hunt meet, for example, all those sorts of things, so that when the horse retires they will be able to go on to have a second career. It’s incredibly important because people who do a bad job of breaking in a horse leave it with fewer options in its life, it’s something we feel really strongly about actually.”

When considering which horses to buy, Lizzie and Ed must judge many different factors: his/her pedigree, their physical appearance, the horse’s character, etc. Valentine Bloodstock only buy horses that they are wholeheartedly happy with and, although they intend on selling their purchases, would be happy to keep and race in their very own pink, black and orange silks.

Lizzie explained, “Ed is the confirmation man and the pedigree man, he’s really hot on that. I think I’m willing to overlook ‘blemishes’ in those two areas in favour of character. I want a horse that’s confident and looks at me and says, ‘Yeah, pick me.’ A horse that has self-confidence, even arrogance, is going to have the right mental fortitude to stare a horse in the eye as it’s going up the run-in and say, ‘You’re not passing me today, mate.’

“I want a horse that is brave and confident, not very many champion racehorses are wilting violets. You’re looking for a horse that has presence, when you watched Sprinter Sacre walk around the paddock you knew that he thought he was good, and that’s what you’re looking for. When I worked for Willie Mullins, the horse that really thought he was the bee’s knees was Hurricane Fly, he thought he was the best thing in the whole world, and he was. The horse’s opinion of himself is very important.”

One horse that Valentine Bloodstock has failed to sell to date but, nevertheless, continued on his path into the racing world is a four-year-old gelding called Honneur D’Ajonc.

“My mum, Jane Williams, trains him, we bought him to sell but actually, he’s a really smart horse. We tried to sell him on several occasions but no one wanted to pay the price that we wanted and so we were happy to roll the dice and go again. That’s the exciting thing, we love the horses that we buy and that’s why we buy them.”

Having raced at some of the UK’s biggest meetings, Lizzie feels like she has fulfilled what she wanted to in the racing world. Whereas Ed, who has worked at some of the most famous stud’s in the country and was once head lad at Archie Watson’s yard, has big aspirations for Valentine Bloodstock.

Lizzie said, “I think my dream is to just be dealing with nice people and nice horses. It sounds a bit simple but I’ve done the hard stuff and I achieved my dreams in that sphere by riding big winners.

“One of Ed’s ambitions in life is to be involved with a horse that runs in the Gold Cup, whether that’s buying or pre-training him/her. He did ride Tea For Two who ran in the Gold Cup twice so I suppose he’s slightly already done it but he would much rather buy or pre-train him/her, that’s his dream. We both don’t want to operate at such a big level that we need to just buy quantity, we’re happy to buy quality and sell, or not sell, depending on the interest.”

 

For more information on Valentine Bloodstock check out their website here: https://www.valentinebloodstock.com/