Sport Horse Racing

Wednesday 23 October 2019

Lavery dreams of Classic glory with unsold Lady

Sheila Lavery with Lady Kaya. Photo credit: Caroline Norris
Sheila Lavery with Lady Kaya. Photo credit: Caroline Norris

Daragh Ó Conchúir

Fairyland is one of the leading contenders for today's Qipco 1000 Guineas at Newmarket, but the fairytale angle lies elsewhere.

Lady Kaya was bought to sell on by Joanne Lavery for €15,000 as a foal in November 2016 but the second element of that equation - selling her as a yearling for a tidy profit - was not completed, so the Dandy Man filly was sent to be trained by the owner's aunt, Sheila.

Sheila Lavery was the only one in her family to have any interest in horses originally. It began with eventing and over time progressed to breeding thoroughbreds.

She began training in 2012, at a time when the country was just coming out of a recession, because her own dabble with pinhooking (buying foals and selling them on as yearlings) didn't bring about the desired results either.

Not too many trainers start aged 52 but Lavery's success has been such that she has had to scale back a bit on the breeding, with Joanne taking on a little more of that enterprise, along with her own growing business.

Sheila's brother John - Joanne's father - provided some of the initial investment and has become so in thrall with the sport that he has backed his sister's judgement with more finance for each passing season.

It is Joanne's colours on Lady Kaya, however, and they will be worn today by Robbie Colgan, who for most of his 17-year career has been a journeyman jump jockey, with a PB of 18 winners in 2013-'14, and the Galmoy Hurdle and Troytown Chase among the highlights.

Last year he committed to combining National Hunt and Flat, and so fruitful was his partnership with Lavery that he opted to leave the obstacles in the rear-view mirror this term. In April, he combined with Lady Kaya for a facile Group Three success at Leopardstown that opened the way for a tilt at Classic glory.

"He's always worked really hard," says the trainer of Colgan.

"He even worked hard for me when he wasn't getting the rides. He was in every day, so it's really nice. It's such a fickle, scary game this. You have to be in the right place at the right time or you're just forgotten about. He's a massive cog in the wheel here but he always has been and it's great that he's getting the rewards."

Lavery could never have imagined finding herself in such a position waking up this morning.

"You let the horses tell you. You always dream and hope you're going to have something like that. It's the aspiration. But it's not something you think of starting off."

She is optimistic about the season ahead and will have her first two-year-old runners of what she describes as "a nice bunch of horses" at the new Curragh tomorrow. But she has to think long and hard about whether or not she will be able to enjoy this afternoon's proceedings.

"I don't know! Yeah and no. It's a funny job. I will but probably more in hindsight when it's over. It's about getting her there, sound and in one piece. I think I'll enjoy it more once I've legged Robbie up, that she's travelled safely and arrived safely."

Having made the journey as a two-year-old, when she finished sixth in the Cheveley Park Stakes at the end of a busy campaign last term, gives Lavery confidence that her charge possesses the right temperament to deal with the occasion.

"Newmarket is a very buzzy place to tack up and she copes with it. She'll have two handlers and once you have that, you can keep a lid on her. She's also handled the travelling and did nothing there only ate and slept."

Such is Lady Kaya's speed that some doubts exist about whether or not she will stay the mile. Lavery has entered her in both the Commonwealth Cup and Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot to cover both eventualities. "The filly will tell us what her next target will be."

For now, though, the underdogs are taking on the bluebloods and they do so with the backing of their peers.

"The amount of goodwill towards the yard, and Robbie and the filly has been fantastic. It's been really nice, especially the amount of trainers that have wished me well. It's fantastic. It's a brilliant sport when you're doing well."

Remarkably, a journey that germinated in failed projects, might just produce a greater triumph than anyone in this story could have dreamt of.

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