It's important to consider a trainer's credentials when you're considering Grand National 2020 horses to follow, and Kerry Lee is a good example of someone who had in the past, had her eye on this very prize. Kerry Lee is the daughter of former trainer Richard Lee, who retired, after a 29-year-career, in 2015. Kerry assisted with the running of The Bell House, the family stables in Byton, Herefordshire, close to the Welsh border, from a young age, but took over the licence in her own right at the start of the 2015/16 National Hunt season.
She trained her first winner as a trainer, Jayo Time, in handicap chase at Uttoxeter in September, 2015, but enjoyed her first major success with Mountainous in the Coral Welsh Grand National at Chepstow the following January. The race had been postponed two weeks earlier but, in hock-deep ground, Mountainous went clear over the final two fences and was driven out on the run-in to beat Firebird Flyer by an ever-dwindling 2½ lengths. “I think it’s absolutely beautiful ground,” joked Lee afterwards.
In so doing, Mountainous not only became the first horse since Bonanza Boy in 1989 to win the CoralWelsh Grand National twice, but completed a notable family double, having won the race for Richard Lee on his first attempt in 2013. At the time, Lee Snr. said of him, “From the moment he came into our yard as a 5-year-old, I said he was a Welsh Grand National horse.”
Winning the Coral Welsh National Grand National within six months of taking over the training licence was an achievement, in itself, but Kerry enjoyed the purplest of purple patches in the spring of 2016. Exactly seven days after Mountainous’ victory, she saddled Russe Blanc to win the Betfred Classic Chase at Warwick and, less than a month later, Top Gamble to win the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury.
Another week later, she achieved further high-profile success with Bishops Road in the Betfred Grand National Trial at Haydock and, not finished yet, rounded off a memorable campaign with wins for Kylemore Lough in the Ryanair Gold Cup Novice Chase – her first Grade 1 success – and Top Gamble in the Normans Grove Chase in the space of 48 hours at Fairyhouse in March. At the end of her “rookie” season, Kerry had saddled 23 winners from 110 runners, at a strike rate of 21%, and earned £377,508 in total prize money. She sets lofty goals for herself as her aspirations to win the Aintree Grand National are well known.
Asked about her phenomenal run of Saturday successes, Kerry said, “People say that new trainers usually target smaller races, earlier in the week, but you’ve got to be a little bit bold, and that’s the way I am.”