Racing: Keeping chin up amid the chinless

Paul Kelleway is impatient for Glory at Epsom. Richard Edmondson reports

In the build-up to the Derby quite a few folk have been up to Newmarket to see Paul Kelleway about his Classic colt, the well-fancied Glory Of Dancer. Most have written about what an unusual chap the trainer is, and he has not appreciated it. He thinks of his family more Waltons than the portrayed Addams, and feels he does not belong in a pigeon hole with the elephant man and bearded lady for company.

"Just because they [the media] talk to a load of people who are dead from the neck up, when they find someone who they think is a character and can talk a bit they make out you're a freak show," he says. "We're just a small family business trying to make a living.''

Whatever he says, however, Paul Anthony Kelleway is different. He is plain-spoken, devoid of aristocratic connection and not a twit, and if this makes him unusual in Newmarket it tells you more about the town than the man himself.

The Kelleways have been at Shalfleet stables on the Bury Road in racing's headquarters since 1977. The plural applies as the trainer's wife, Gillian, children Anthony, Gay (a successful trainer herself) and Sarah have, or are, playing a significant role in the operation.

Pappa Kelleway has always worked to one goal. Success for him is buying cheap yearlings and making their future the breeding shed rather than a pyramid of dog-food cans in the supermarket. He has had some spectacular successes. The 8,000gns Madam Gay captured the Prix de Diane (French Oaks) and was sold for $1.4m, while his dual Group One winner Risk Me upgraded his value from pounds 20,000 to pounds 1.4m.

This policy of pitting low-breds in the top races brings with it a large proportion of defeats. They say Kelleway leads with his chin, which is believable when you observe a dominating feature that looks as though it has met with a selection of bouncers. The man himself can stand all this even if others sneer at his strike-rate. "All I'm doing is the best for my owners and trying to increase the value of the horses," he says. "If Dick Hern or Henry Cecil puts one in those big races that finishes last no-one mentions it.''

Kelleway has only 26 horses and he knows he should have more. However, as a boy he was fostered to a family in Doncaster and he seems to have borrowed the county's reputation for tact and diplomacy. "Gay can probably get owners better than me," he says. This is the hugest of understatements. Hannibal Lecter could get owners better than Paul Kelleway.

As he approaches 56, Kelleway is finally convincing himself that life is not fair. A lot of training is about going to the right school and keeping the accent up to scratch. Kelleway's conversation owes more to the dockyard than the chapel and the only thing he will butter up is a cream cracker. He once thought performance would speak for him, and he is a rather forlorn figure when he accepts he has been wrong for so many years. "I always believed results would make a difference, but it hasn't seemed to," he said. "Experience and track record doesn't seem to get you a glass of water in this game. Maybe that's life as well.''

This is not to say Kelleway is down to his rags. On the contrary. One wet Newmarket morning last week, the trainer entered the Shalfleet lounge to meet this visitor. He wore blue overtrousers, a striped jersey with the crocodile logo over his heart and, underneath, there seemed to be several further layers, lending the impression the trainer was wearing all his wardrobe at once. The ensemble was topped off with a neckerchief.

Kelleway talked generously about Glory Of Dancer's performance in the Gran Criterium at San Siro in November last year and you would have to be a double-glazing salesman to miss the invitation to view the video on arrival at the yard. The footage, it has to be said, is quite arresting, and Kelleway still seems to be startled as he watches his horse's performance from the edge of his florally decorated armchair.

Around the lounge are oil portraits of Kelleway's good horses, the likes of Swiss Maid, Green Girl and African Song. Pride of place, above the fireplace, belongs to What a Myth, the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, with P Kelleway in the saddle. As a jumps jockey Kelleway rode about 400 winners, including the Gold Cup and two Champion Hurdles on Bula.

Beverages were served by Gillian, who is described by a strange blend of sexism and meritocracy in Kelleway's promotional blurb as "his attractive and vivacious wife, very much a power behind the throne". Mrs Kelleway, a point-to-point rider of note herself, does the feeding and insists that horses liked to be talked to. There are few better qualified for the job.

After the questions become silly (what is your star sign?) your correspondent is invited to the gallops and is asked for a lift. Then comes an interview- changing moment. Kelleway sees a babychair in the car and immediately sees his questioner as almost human and not the scaled hack stereotype who would attempt the unspeakable just to get a quote (I must remember to return that seat to the shops).

On the way to the gallops it is difficult to tell who is in control. Kelleway, in the space of a five-minute journey, makes his chauffeur flash the headlights, honk the horn and take devious routes. It's lashing down outside, bouncing off the bonnet, but, for some reason, the trainer has to have his window down.

Gillian is already at the gallops in the family 280E Mercedes (a white and orange number, the orange bits a product of old age) which has a huge, menacing shape on the back seat. This is Dexter, the sort of animal that cleans up burglary rates. Dexter is big, even by Rottweiler standards, as a medical condition means he is on steroids. He looks as though he's had most of the injections while in the car and might struggle to disembark. Eventually he manages it, swinging his moose head lazily from side to side in celebration.

By now I know I'm in. Kelleway has been so impressed by my driving that he allows me to pull the lever on the starting stalls where he is to test four two-year-olds. "When I say 1-2-3 go just hit it," he says, as if addressing some dolt.

As the rain splatters around, the trainer returns to a common theme. Like plenty of people these days, Kelleway talks a lot about the lottery. About people having a horse with him after they have won it, about the time 12 months ago when he was one number off winning pounds 3m. He lives in hope that he will get up at least one Saturday jackpot in 10 days' time.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Cleaner

£15000 - £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you've got first class custo...

Recruitment Genius: Mobile Applications Developer / Architect - iOS and Android

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a medium s...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Account Executive - £40K OTE

£11830 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working in a friendly, sales ta...

Recruitment Genius: Web Designer

£15000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most