Sunday, 6 May 2018

Gay Kelleway: Queen for a Day



It’s just over thirty years since Gay Kelleway became the first, and only, female jockey to win a race at Royal Ascot. Gay, 53, remembers the occasion well, so well in fact, that her current training establishment, Queen Alexandra Stables, in the village of Exning, near Newmarket, Suffolk, is named after the race she won on Sprowston Boy all those years ago.

After a successful riding career, Gay took out a training licence in 1992 and saddled her first winner, Aberfoyle, in a handicap hurdle at Lingfield the following January. After brief spells at Charnwood Stables and, temporarily, at Eve Lodge Stables in Newmarket, Gay moved to the modern, but remote, Whitcombe Manor Stables in the heart of the Dorset countryside, where she remained until 1998. At that time, Gay took what appeared to be the next logical step when she moved her 40-strong string to Lingfield Park Racecourse, where she became the first resident trainer at the track.

Gay has long talked about relocating to France but, despite having placed her current historic yard on the market more than once in recent years, is apparently now “on the lookout for a 50-box yard here to have all the horses under one roof.” In the meantime, in 2017, with numbers on the increase, she expanded her Exning operation into nearby Newmarket by taking a barn at Red House Hill Stables on Hamilton Road to house an additional 12 horses.

Like her father, the late Paul Kelleway, Gay is a colourful, outspoken character. Unfortunately, she has also inherited the family trait of handling mainly modest horses, with the occasional sensational success thrown in. A recent example of the latter is Lightscameraction, 20/1 winner of the 3-Year-Old Sprint All-Weather Championships – worth £93, 375 to the winner – at Lingfield in 2015. Earlier in her career, Gay trained Vortex – an £18,000 ‘castoff’ from Michael Stoute – to win 17 of his 74 races for the yard and over £334,000 in win and place prize money between 2002 and 2008. In his penultimate season, as an 8-year-old, the Danehill gelding finished third in the Royal Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot under 9st 10lb at odds of 50/1.

All in all, in training career lasting just over 25 years, Gay has saddled roughly 600 winners. She has 30 horses in training at Queen Alexandra Stables, so three winners from 10 runners so far in 2018 is a perfectly reasonable rate of return from such a small string.
Once billed as “one of the most exciting and talented trainers of modern times”, Gay Kelleway should continue to keep her male counterparts on their toes.