From this week, every meeting at Lingfield Park will be a home fixture for Kelleway and her string, which is in the process of moving from the lavishly appointed, but somewhat inaccessible, training complex at Whitcombe Manor in Dorset. The Surrey commuter belt, just a few miles from the M25, may never be as picturesque as the West Country, but for Kelleway it represents the logical next step in a training career which has already shown immense promise.
Preparing horses on a racecourse, rather than in a remote country yard, is standard practice in the United States, where the back-stretch barns are so economical to run that a trainer can make a good living with no more than a dozen horses. In Britain it is a relatively new idea, and Kelleway is by far the most famous name to give it a try.
Her new yard adjoins the far side of Lingfield's all-weather track, where several of her runners went through their paces in front of their owners yesterday. A new seven-furlong woodchip gallop is also available, but it is the course itself where much of the training will take place. There will be 40 horses to begin with, and as their trainer says with typical enthusiasm, "plenty of them are for sale".
There will be no dramatic changes to Kelleway's training regime, which relies on keeping horses as relaxed as possible at all times.
"The key to training them on the track is not to overdo them," she says, "because they're racing on a regular basis. There's plenty of walking, and you allow them to relax and enjoy the race-track and enjoy cantering around. The most important thing of all with racehorses is to have them right mentally. You can have morning glories [horses which do not reproduce their gallops form on the track], and this is going to suit that sort of horse. They're very happy where they are and when they run they're still sweet. It will be a big advantage."
One of the first trainers to make a success of trackside training was Nick Littmoden, and while he is in the process of moving from Wolverhampton to Julie Cecil's old yard in Newmarket, another resident of Headquarters, Mark Polglase, is about to take up residence in purpose-built barns at Southwell. Lingfield, too, has plans for barns on the course, while two more trainers should eventually be accommodated at a former fruit farm next door to Kelleway's new yard.
On-site training facilities would also form part of a new track at Thurrock, east of London, which Arena Leisure, Lingfield's owners, is currently seeking BHB approval to build. The feeling at Arena seems to be that if any one of the half-dozen current proposals for new courses is to get the nod from the authorities, it will be theirs.
It may take a few weeks for Kelleway to tweak the daily arrangements to suit her new surroundings, although she points out that "I know every horse individually and I know what they want, and now I'll be around them all the time." On the bare evidence of yesterday's brief gallop, Opera Buff, who is already something of a course specialist, has settled in quickly. He runs at Wolverhampton today and then in a pounds 10,000 Showcase race at Lingfield next week, and seems sure to be the first of many home wins for Kelleway this winter.
Nap: Hopeful Lord
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