SUNDAY mornings are crazy in the Kelly household in Crehelp near Dunlavin.
BERNIE, the mammy of the house will be making sandwiches, daughters Edel and Jean will be organising everything for the day's journey and Patrick, the youngest son, will be getting into the zone ahead of whatever pony race meeting they are attending that day.
The remaining family members will either be helping the preparations or they'll be staying out of the way. There is no room for bystanders.
The banter will be in full flow. Patrick won't have much time for joking though. The near 14-year-old is a determined and straighttalking individual who feels most at home on the back of a horse. His conversation is littered with horsey terms. His spare time is spent riding out for neighbour James Kelly and up until recently the well-known Kildare trainer Arthur Moore. At home he watches the Racing Channel constantly. He lives and breathes horses, knows them, understands them, loves them.
"He was a lovely big gentleman of a horse." That's how Patrick remembers C.U, his first winner which he rode in Finn Valley in Lifford, Donegal only a couple of weeks ago. His eyes sparkle when he recounts the race like those of a young man who has fallen deeply, madly in love for the first time.
"I was told to ride him with confidence," recalls the slimly built Patrick. "We got down to the start and he was lovely and relaxed. I jumped him out and I sat him in last. For the first two laps I did nothing and then I moved up to sixth and on the last lap I was in fourth. I gave him a little shove and went up the rail and then I gave him an almighty craic and got him up to second. We were going down the hill and I was coming up behind my friend Conor and I was saying "I've got you Conor." I got up on his inside and it was nip and tuck and I won by a length. I was so used to coming second and riding psycho horses that I didn't think I had won. I was expecting some other horse to have got out ahead of us and won by a mile. I was delighted with the win but straight away I wanted my second win. The likes of Vincent O'Brien never thought about his last winner," said Patrick.
He's approaching the ridiculously young age of 14 but Patrick is already making serious moves in the pony racing world around Ireland and more recently clocked up his second winner in Tyrella in Downpatrick on board The Boodyman.
But despite his young age it's been a long journey for the St Kevin's Community College pupil. Youngest of seven children to Dermot and Bernie Kelly it was no major surprise that he would be pursuing a life within the world of horse racing.
His earliest memories are watching the racing on TV with his father. As a child he learned his colours from the silks of jockeys in the paper. His brother Jimmy got a rocking horse for Christmas one year and the creature was kidnapped by Patrick (inset) who rode it until it fell apart, bit by bit.
"I'd be on it when I'd be watching the races and if Barry Geraghty pulled up his horse I'd pull up the rocking horse," said Patrick.
For Patrick however, despite his love for horses, such a life seemed unlikely as he pursued football and other sports. But a visit to Punchestown where Paul Carbery told him that "he had the look of a pony racer", a creature Patrick claims to have never even heard of at that stage, changed all that.
A phone number was handed over and promptly forgotten until he won a local race in Donard. It was then that big sister Edel stepped in and from that day on she has been the driving force of Patrick's blossoming pony racing reputation.
"Edel rang the number and I was told to bring my gear and that I might be able to get a ride in Athenry but we knew there was no way we would be getting a ride. Then we got to know Kevin Connell who had a pony called 'Telling Tales' who was very, very fast. We bought her but I was a woeful rider on her. We went to Frenchpark in Roscommon for my first ride and I came nowhere that day. Everything went wrong that day anyway. The jeep was overheating going down and we were delayed. I was nearly crying in the back, mam was delighted because she didn't want me to get a ride. I didn't get the best of breaks in the race but caught up quick. Mam was hoping I wouldn't win because she was hoping I'd forget about riding horses. When I'm on a horse Mam does this sad face and I have to tell her "don't look at me". "Then we went to Ballyconneely and we thought we might win this. There were only three other runners and Peter Lawlor, he helped me train 'Telling Tales' and we used his gallops. But in the race I ran off the bend twice. I was still in front but I went off the bend and a lad came up the inside and I lost. I was gutted," he said.
And looking at him you know that he really was gutted.
When Patrick talks about the races he has lost there is an anger there, a frustration at himself and his errors. He is his own worst critic but that drives him on. That's what gets him up in the morning to get out on the horses. That's what made him give up his football and that's what drives him on to be the best he can be. "From Ballyconneely Patrick and the gang have travelled all over Ireland. In Boyle in Roscommon 'Telling Tales' reared at the start and he finished second. On Geesala Beach in Mayo the family made the extra effort and travelled down the night before, staying in a B&B and going to mass the following morning.
"We said "this has to be it." We got there and when we went down to the parade ring she was hopping around. I cantered down to the line and she bolted. Her head was up in the air and she wouldn't stop. Her race was run then. We finished 20 lengths behind. And that was after six hours driving," recalled Patrick.
After a third place finish in Trim on 'Telling Tales' the family sold the pony and a new plan was hatched. Edel rang the yard of Arthur Moore and asked that Patrick be given some experience down there. At first the reception was cool enough but after a fairly inspirational plea by the passionate Edel, Arthur ended the phone call by saying "he can start on Saturday."
"I went to Arthur's yard in my gear and he said to me "I told your sister you'd be muckimng out, not riding out." I told Edel this and she said "don't mind that lad."
Arthur brought me up to the working field. I was only watching that day but I had to lead a horse home called 'Free World'. He mauled me all the way home, kept putting me in the ditch. After that Arthur said I could ride 'Flood'.
'Flood' was a two-year-old filly and highly strung. On the second day Arthur led a pack of four of us on a gallop. He was in front on a bay filly. I jumped out from the back and she took off out past Arthur and I kept shouting to him "I have her now Arthur, I have her now." When he caught up with me he said "I think you've done enough."
But he progressed well in Moore's yard, getting to ride in the 'first circle' and enjoying his first gallop on a thoroughbred called 'Johnny Star'. Recently he finished up in the Kildare yard but plans to return in the near future. For now he is enjoying riding out with James Kelly in Hollywood.
Patrick cuts a shrewd figure. Despite his young age there is an intelligence about him and a rider needs that quality once he dives into the world of pony racing in Ireland.
Trainers are always on the lookout for talented youngsters to steer their charges to victory. A good reputation and an impressive record are key to good rides. In the midst of all the bonafide and honourable trainers are those who would attempt to take advantage of a young man wager to impress.
This season has been a mixed one for Patrick. His first ride was for Priscilla Healy and Gabriel McNamara on 'Treasure Beach' in Ballinalsoe. The family had stayed two nights and there had been no rides. Needless to say a second place left Patrick and the crew in fine fettle for the long journey home.
During the weeks Edel was on the phone calling "every man in pony racing in Ireland" in a bid to get Patrick rides on the following Sundays.
He rode 'Goody Goody Goo', 'Peacemaker', who according to Patrick was a "big horrible horse to ride".
He rode Mick Mac McGoogle for Tim McCarthy and finished fifth in Whitegate in Clare.
He rode in Newmarket, Ballyvaughan, Lacken Beach and got four spare rides for Adrian Brown and lost one by a short head. He was steadily improving. He just needed a chance on a good mount and then Adrian, who Patrick describes as a gentleman, assigned him to C.U.
"I t was great coming home to win," said Patrick. "People were clapping me into the parade ring and lads were noticing me. Now the phone is ringing all week with offers of rides and we'll be heading down to the highlight of the year to the Dingle Derby in a few weeks and I've already for a few rides there," said the teen who is usually the youngest rider in a race by at least four years.
For the future Patrick has a single goal in his mind, a straight forward dream for a straight forward boy.
"I'd like to be the best flat jockey there ever was. The lads I look up to would be Joseph O'Brien and Kieran Fallon, Lestor Piggot and Joe Fanning who is the best Wicklow jockey there ever was. I'm happy once I'm riding horses. I don't want to train, I just want to ride. I want to ride until I'm 55 if I can. I love it.
And he's nothing if not determined. He's bet a racing colleague €10,000 that he'll never drink or smoke. Girls don't interest him (although he wisely qualifies that with a "yet"), he doesn't do discos or hanging around. He loves the races, loves the characters and for all his complaining and shaking of the head he loves the support he gets from his family, his father Dermot, who tried to convince him to commentate on the races rather than race, his sisters Tanya, Sara, Jean and Ruth and brother Jimmy, his little niece Holly and nephews Cody and James and his uncle Patrick Kelly.
Of course Mam is there too, Mam with the "sad face" when Patrick climbs aboard whatever horse is presented in front of him and not forgetting his PA, Edel, his guiding hand, his critic, his advisor, his mentor and his friend.
This Sunday the Kelly house in Crehelp will be a cauldron of activity as Bernie, as always, makes the sandwiches and Jean and Edel make sure everything is in order. And in a few years if Patrick Kelly's dedication and devotion doesn't waver or weaken who's to say that they won't be heading off to Newmarket or Royal Ascot where Patrick will climb aboard a red hot favourite in a world famous race. And then all the miles and all the sandwiches and all the 'sad faces' will have been worth it.
And if not, well at least he'll have followed his dream and that's all anyone can do.