By Jon Lees
Lizzie Kelly says victory on Siruh Du Lac in Saturday’s BetVictor Gold Cup would be “the icing on the cake” after proving her fitness to resume riding this weekend following a broken arm.
The two-time Grade One-winning jockey received the all clear on Thursday to ride hotly-fancied Nick Williams-trained challenger, having been sidelined since she was injured in a fall at Exeter in October.
Kelly has spent the last three weeks trying to regain her fitness in time to be reunited with the horse she steered to victory at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
But after approval came through from BHA chief medical adviser Dr Jerry Hill, Kelly could look forward to not only riding on Saturday but also on Sunday, when she is booked to partner Monsieur Lecoq in the Greatwood Hurdle.
Kelly broke her right forearm and ruptured the AC joint on her left shoulder in a fall on October 10, and had to undergo surgery to insert a plate in her arm.
“The surgeon did a very good job, but if it wasn’t for the physio and personal trainer at Oaksey House I don’t think I would have been anywhere near to coming back,” said Kelly.
“They put me through a lot of strength and conditioning training, through the arm and shoulder, and focussed on my fitness so that I would pass the fitness test, which is fairly grim. So here we are today, all sorted.”
Kelly rode Siruh Du Lac to an unbeaten season last term, winning four times culminating in victory in the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate, in which they beat Haldon Gold Cup winner Janika, and did not want to miss his return.
“If I hadn’t passed I would have been gutted, but every day you miss winners is gutting,” she said. “I am delighted to be back. The ground at Cheltenham is going to be pretty hard going, but I am really excited to be riding Siruh Du Lac.
“We enjoyed a fantastic season last season and of all the horses I ride he is the one I enjoy most. I couldn’t ask for a nicer horse to be sat on for my first ride back.
“It’s all about building on what he did last year. He had a hard season last year so I am personally hoping for a safe trip round. At this stage it would be stupid to put a gun to his head, but I am desperate for him to win it, absolutely.
“It would be the icing on the cake having worked so hard to get back in time to ride him if he then went and won.”
Monsieur Lecoq, trained by Kelly’s mother, Jane Williams, lines up in the Greatwood having won the Welsh Champion Hurdle under brother Chester while she was out of action.
“He needs to grow up a little bit and I think this will be the making of him,” she said. “I am concerned about the ground for him. We are going to have to run because I think it is a very winnable race, but conditions are not ideal.”
Kelly, who became the first female jockey to ride a Grade One winner over jumps on Tea For Two in the 2015 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase, has ridden 73 career winners and needs only two more to lose her 3lb claim, which she should achieve this season.
She said: “We’ve had a lot of high quality success and I would take all that over number of winners, but at the same time it would be quite an achievement to ride 75 winners when most of the time it’s a good season when I get to 10 or 15.
“For me it would be massive to achieve that. The statistics of the number of people that don’t ride out their claim is horrifying. I want to be able to say that I’ve done it.”