Kerry Lee never wavered from her dream of being a racehorse trainer. She spoke to Herefordshire Living about how that dream took her to the winners' enclosure in her first season

Racehorse trainer Kerry Lee knew very early on that there was only one job for her, though she failed to convince her teachers.
"They always asked what I was going to do with my life," she recalls, adding that she told them even then that she wanted to be a racehorse trainer, though no one, she adds, paid any attention.

You have to wonder, hearing that story, what those teachers think now when they see pictures of Kerry in the winners' enclosure with one of her horses!

Kerry's childhood ambitions seems less surprising when you know that her father is trainer Richard Lee, who saddled two winners of the Welsh National in Le Beau Rai in 2011 and Mountainous in 2013 from the Byton yard.

Little wonder then to learn that Kerry first sat on a racehorse at the age of eight, and was riding them daily from the age of 10. But it was never riding racehorse or becoming a jockey that appealed to Kerry. "I've not ridden as a jockey. I never wanted to ride racehorses. The dedication and the fitness and the diet and discipline required to be a jockey is like no other."

She did, however, make an exception earlier this year when she saddled up to ride in the charity race at Hereford Racecourse, run in aid of St Michael's Hospice, raising £7,000 of the impressive £47,000 the meeting raised. She rode Top Gamble that day: "He's my favourite. He's a gentleman and looked after me, so I may do it again next year."

It was an experience that, she says, also opened her eyes: "the speed at which everything happens, the fitness required. It made me appreciate even more what jockeys do."

Although the dream was always to train, Kerry found herself involved in the world of horseracing in an entirely different capacity after school and university. "I worked for Channel 4 for many years doing the racing graphics. I was at college doing computer science and I was always on the Channel 4 racing forum. It was through that that I got the job - 300 people applied for it and I then did it for the best part of 15 years.

"But I have always been very much a Herefordshire girl and this is what I've always wanted to do. I don't think anyone could have foreseen what I was going to go on and do with computers and graphics. But as much as I enjoyed it, it was always a stepping stone to becoming a racehorse trainer."

The Bell House stables in Byton are currently home to 26 thoroughbred horses, with capacity to house and train 31. "It's a relatively small yard," says Kerry. "To put it into context, other trainers would have as many as 120.

"We are very much about quality, not quantity - we're more of a boutique trainer," she says. "I do like to keep it small and do it well and maintain the quality. And I'm very lucky to have a loyal and dedicated set of owners. They are very patient, which allows me to do my job and provide as much fun for them as possible."

Kerry is about to go into her fifth season, her father having handed over the reins at Bell House Stables to his daughter in 2015. "My first season was amazing. I won the Welsh National (with Mountainous, ridden by Jamie Moore), a Classic Chase at Warwick with Russe Blanc (prompting the Guardian's racing correspondent to write 'Kerry Lee is the new name for punters to remember whenever they are struggling with a marathon jumps race') , a Grade 1 and two Grade 2s (the highest levels of thoroughbred racing).

Kerry only trains jumpers - "I don't train any flat horses. We are very much specialists in that. A lot of the young horses we buy are bought with the aim of going jumping in the future.

"It's what we love, the type of horse and the longevity of the horses," Referring to the size of the yard, Kerry adds, that the horses she trains "are not just a number they are a name and I do like to think I know them all personally, which means that you know straight away if something's not quite right - they all have their own personalities."

Although Kerry has had no desire to ride racehorses professionally, she has always ridden and loves to ride out two or three times a day on the gallops on the top of the hill opposite the yard. "It helps with knowing the horses," she says, "You're always learning and that's why I ride out so much, learning about the horses and what makes them tick," and it's certainly a spectacular setting to go to work in, though perhaps not quite as appealing when the weather closes in.

Many trainers don't turn their horses out during the day, but in the paddocks below the gallops, all Bell House Stables' residents enjoy life in the great outdoors. For one good reason - "they love it and have fun, and happy horses win races. That's our motto."

Although the jump season runs all year, Kerry explains that the length of her season is dependent on the weather. "You have to race when the ground's stable," but she will have somehwere between 150 and 200 runners each season "so each of the horses will run four or five times" on one of Kerry's three regular jockeys - Richard Patrick, her stable conditional jockey, who, in September this year, won at Uttoxeter on Sinakar, repeating his first win for Kerry four years ago at the same course; Jamie Moore and champion jockey Richard Johnson "I went to Pony Club with Richard," says Kerry.

Behind the scenes, Kerry's mum runs the office: "She holds it all together, and Dad helps here, there and everywhere!"
The most exciting thing, she adds, about her job is the sense of achievement it brings. It's really nice to be able to nurture a horse and bring it into winning ways whatever its level of ability.

"I can spot potential in a horse but they can still make a monkey of you, and you do get horses that just don't make the grade, but we take good care to find those that don't make it a good home."

They're not daft either, as Kerry explains: "Some of the best horses we have don't work as hard when they're at home once they understand what's required of them in a race."

Reflecting on her job, she says "It's a way of life. I love horses, I love working with horses and being able to do it in such a great place and such a great environment and seeing the horses mature is great."

And, she adds, it's always a huge reward to get to the winner's enclosure: "You always go to win whatever level you're at. But it's always an achievement - win or lose - if a horse runs well."

Kerry Lee Racehorse Trainer
Bell House, Byton, Presteigne LD8 2HS
07968 242663 or 01544 267672