Film producers seeking inspiration for the next Hollywood blockbuster could have the perfect storyline fall into their lap should Lizzie Kelly triumph aboard Tea For Two in this year’s Randox Health Grand National.
Having become the first female jockey to lift a Grade One contest in Britain aboard the 10-year-old in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase in 2015, Kelly stands on the brink of breaking more new ground by becoming the first to prevail in the Aintree marathon.
Thirty fences stand in the way of Kelly – who will be having her first ride in the race – recording a victory that would receive a monumental reaction, one far beyond the parameters of just the racing world.
She smiled: “I think if I won the Grand National, people would go nuts. I imagine you would be doing so many appearances on things like Good Morning Britain. It would be absolutely massive.
“Whichever of us (female riders) does it first, there are likely to films and books about it, that is how big I think the reaction would be. If they made a film about it I’d want Keira Knightley to play me!
“Firstly, though, I think if I won the race I would cry in the middle of the paddock and then you wouldn’t see me and probably the horse for a week, as we would be in a bar in Liverpool somewhere.”
Although having no previous National experience, Kelly, who celebrated a second Cheltenham Festival victory last month, hopes she can last longer than on her only previous outing over the famous fences in the 2012 Foxhunters’.
She said: “I’ve only ridden in the Foxhunters’, but that was years ago and I’ve always wanted to ride in the Grand National.
“The horse I was on in the Foxhunters’ was called Blackstaff and he was a bit of a headcase. He was really strong and basically he was he was free with me, carting me into these fences. I was probably terrified, but once you have been over them once it is not so scary.
“The horse pecked on landing at the ninth and I shot off. I’d jumped eight fences and I loved it as I thought it was quite breathtaking.”
Tea For Two and Kelly parted company when still holding every chance in the Cross Country Chase at the Cheltenham Festival won by Tiger Roll, but despite that hiccup the rider is optimistic the 10-year-old, trained by her mother, Jane Williams, can stay the extreme trip.
She said: “We hatched the plan a couple of years ago and we wanted to go for the race last year, but it didn’t quite work out. It always seemed to be the right sort of race for him.
“He attacked the cross-country fences at Cheltenham and the only reason he got rid of me was that he jumped it too big.
“To be fair the best thing was that he was enjoying the experience and it was the first time I had felt comfortable on him for a long time.
“He went over the Grand National-style fences well at David Pipe’s yard when we went there, so he knows what he is doing. In terms of jumping the fences, I think he will be fine as he is a good jumper.
“The question mark would be whether he stays, but I think the older he has got, the happier I’m about him staying the trip.”
While Kelly’s experience over the fences may be limited, she knows exactly what celebrating a winner at the meeting is like after the pair got the better of an entertaining battle with multiple Grade One winner Cue Card in the Betway Bowl two years ago.
She said: “The Grade One win at Aintree was just unbelievable. I didn’t expect him to run as well as he did. It caught me by surprise after pulling up and turning back and looking at the crowd and those massive stands.
“It was absolutely nuts and I think riding a winner at Aintree is one of the most fun things to do. Winning that Grade One at Aintree was euphoric and I felt like I was walking on air. To this day it is still the best day of my life.”
But although writing her name in the record books would be the stuff of dreams, for Kelly simply making sure Tea For Two returns to his box that night safe and sound is of more importance.
She added: “When my career has needed a boost he has pushed me along to the next level and it would be great if he could do it again.
“I would be in dreamland if I finish in the first six. He has done an awful lot for me, though, and the main aim will be for me and him to finish in one piece.”