Kelleway heading to top with Tower

Greg Wood on a trainer the bookies will be wary of at Royal Ascot
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The Independent Online
At first sight, the bookmakers could be taking us for fools. The field for the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot next Tuesday is expected to include the 2,000 Guineas winners from Britain, France and Ireland, and yet in William Hill's opening list, a colt which started the season in handicaps and was beaten in a Listed race last time out is on offer at just 16-1.

What we have here, though, is not caution, but respect. Sorbie Tower is trained by Gay Kelleway, whose yard has spent the first part of the season using bookmakers in much the same way that the rest of us use cashpoints. When the money is down, few trainers deliver as frequently as Kelleway, and if she believes Sorbie Tower is worth a try in Group One company, the odds-compilers will give her the benefit of the doubt.

It matters little that the colt did not begin his three-year-old season in the Classic trials, but in a maiden at Doncaster and then a series of handicaps. For Kelleway, handicaps can be a means to an end rather than an end in themselves.

"I'm a great believer in working your way up," she said yesterday. "It can give a horse a huge amount of confidence. If any other trainer had had him they would probably have gone straight into Group company, but my route was a prosperous one because we backed him and we won a lot of prize-money. He's a really good horse. I've got some nice three-year-olds, but he's the best of the lot."

Anzio, bought out of an all-weather claimer during the winter, has already graduated from the Kelleway course of instruction by adding a recent Group Three event at Leopardstown to a series of handicap successes. He will set off for the six-furlong dash of the Wokingham next week with as good a chance as any, but it is Sorbie Tower who could really announce Kelleway's arrival in the big time.

Sorbie Tower met his first defeat of the season in the Heron Stakes at Kempton last month, but he was unfortunate to lose while the colt who narrowly beat him, Peter Chapple-Hyam's Regal Archive, was thought worthy of the step up to Group One company for his next outing. "He got carved up a treat at the beginning and then got into trouble, and he should have won at least a length. Ray [Cochrane] is a pessimist rather than an optimist and he never flinched about putting him in the St James's Palace."

For Sorbie Tower's trainer, success would confirm her as one of the finest handlers among the emerging generation. It would also be the pefect vindication of her decision to leave Newmarket last year for the sumptuous facilities at the Whitcombe Manor complex in Dorset. "I've always liked to think I can train horses, but down her you're more independent, you get more time and also better staff. You can be choosy, whereas in Newmarket it's very difficult to get good staff unless you're in the big league."

The opposition at Ascot appears fearsome, with the three Guineas winners, Mark Of Esteem, Ashkalani and Spinning World all expected to go to post. Bijou D'Inde, who ran Mark Of Esteem so close when third at Newmarket, and the Craven Stakes winner, Beauchamp King, are other probable contenders, but if Kelleway is worried, she hides the fact well.

"You don't really know how good the Newmarket form is, because Even Top ran terribly in the Derby. The French form is probably the best and Spinning World is obviously a really good horse, but mine is fit, well and very fresh and he never ceases to surprise me, he never stops improving. There are very few Group One races about, and there's only one Royal Ascot."

Whether Sorbie Tower will carry any of his trainer's money next week will be decided after he has worked on Saturday. "I think 16-1 might be a bit too short," she said, "but then if he'd won last time he'd probably be 10-1, and if he was trained by H Cecil he'd be 3-1." The modesty seems genuine, but it is unnecessary all the same.

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