Obituary: Paul Kelleway

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The Independent Culture
IF MOST of the horses he trained had matched his own talent in training them, then there is little doubt that Paul Kelleway would have achieved more than the sporadic but sensational successes which became his trademark as a trainer.

Despite his winning some top-level races, Kelleway's training career was confined mainly to dealing with horses of budget level. But that didn't stop him sometimes from winning races of the highest calibre and beating rival horses of the bluest blood. His best horses included a number of notable fillies, including the Champion Stakes winner Swiss Maid and French Oaks winner Madam Gay.

Kelleway was also a highly successful National Hunt jockey, riding for training greats like Ryan Price and Fred Winter. The best horses he partnered were the Champion Hurdler Bula and Gold Cup winner What A Myth.

Appropriately for a jockey who had been apprenticed to Harry Wragg, known as "the Head Waiter", Kelleway became renowned for bringing Bula with a late run. He was also known for his Wildean ability to produce memorable quotes. Famously bemoaning the firepower of the large Arab-backed yards in Newmarket, he said: "I'm usually first out on the gallops with four horses for first lot when 80 of Cumani's come over the hill, 90 of Gosden's over another, and 100 of Cecil's over another. I know how General Custer felt."

His career in racing began during the Second World War, after he was evacuated as a young boy from his home in Islington, north London, to Yorkshire, which became his adopted homeland. From there he joined Doncaster trainer Eddie Magner as an apprentice. Apprentices were supposed to be with a trainer for seven years at that time but Kelleway switched his indentures to Harry Wragg in Newmarket.

Too heavy for the Flat, he later joined Ryan Price at Findon. Price became legendary for his ability to train horses for a particular race and land substantial gambles in the process. Kelleway said Price had a profound effect on his own training career.

Kelleway reached the pinnacle of his career as a jump jockey when moving on to ride as number one for Fred Winter in Lambourn. As well as riding Bula to successive Champion Hurdles in 1971 and 1972, other top horses he rode while at Winter's famous Upland Stables included Crisp, whom he partnered to victory in the prestigious Champion Chase at Cheltenham, and who was later to achieve world-wide fame when second to Red Rum in the Grand National in 1973. However, Crisp was ridden at Aintree by Richard Pitman, who that year succeeded Kelleway as number one rider in acrimonious circumstances.

Very few jump jockeys have switched to Flat training as successfully as Kelleway did. In 1977 he set up in Newmarket and almost straight away achieved big-race success with Swiss Maid, who won the Champion Stakes in 1978. Swiss Maid was not an easy horse to train and provided a beacon- like warning to more established trainers that Kelleway had the skills to figure at the top level.

His most notable talent was buying cheap racehorses, somehow convincing them that they could run considerably faster than their purchase price suggested, and then selling them on for a vast profit. Swiss Maid was purchased for just pounds 6,000 before being sold only three years later for pounds 325,000.

She was by no means a blip in that respect. Madam Gay, who won the French Oaks just a week after finishing second in the Epsom equivalent (she would have won her trainer pounds 100,000 had she won that race), cost about pounds 9,200 and was later sold for pounds 1.4m. Madam Gay also finished second to the great Shergar in the 1981 King George at Ascot and was third in one of America's top races, the Arlington Million. The best colt Kelleway trained, the dual French Group 1 winner Risk Me, was bought for pounds 20,000 yet won pounds 300,000 in prize money and was retired to stud with a value of at least 50 times his purchase price.

Despite such lucrative achievements, there was always a behind-the-scenes sniggering at many of Kelleway's ambitious assaults on the top prizes, which earned him the nickname "Pattern Race Paul". Nonetheless, he had another runner-up in the Oaks with 66-1 shot Media Luna, and his final runner in the Derby, Glory of Dancer, finished fourth.

Although concentrating on the Flat game, Kelleway also achieved success at the Cheltenham Festival, the ultimate for anyone with a National Hunt horse, when Asir won the 1985 Sun Alliance Hurdle.

Kelleway's family were closely involved in his success, and both his son Anthony and daughter Gay are now licence-holders, while Sarah is a leading trainer of Arab horses. Gay became the first woman jockey to ride in an English Classic, in 1986, and the first to win at Royal Ascot, on Sprowston Boy in the 1987 Queen Alexandra Stakes.

By the time Kelleway retired from training in 1997 he had become frustrated by the small size of his string, which was down to under 20 horses.Paul Kelleway, jockey and racehorse trainer: born London 31 August 1940; married (one son, two daughters); died Cheam, Surrey 21 April 1999.