Following the nasty injury to Gigginstown number one rider, Bryan Cooper at Punchestown on New Years Eve we have started to see a little more of the young, and very talented Jack Kennedy.
At the age of seventeen you could argue that the followers of the youthful horseman are getting carried away with themselves putting Kennedy on such a high pedestal making early comparisons between Sir AP McCoy and current Irish Champion Ruby Walsh, however Kennedy displays the similar attributes of the two racing giants of the generation above with his early successes and performances.
That’s not to say he hasn’t got the pick of a more than above par bunch of horses with Gordon Elliot, and you’d be right to think that the horses ability plays a huge factor in his successes but when you see a ride like that on, A Toi Phil in the Handicap Chase at Leopardstown. We saw Kennedy play his hand incredibly late, timed to perfection he nicked it on the line from David Mullins aboard Stellar Notion. Something that two furlongs out seemed an impossible feat. A fantastic ride, receiving much deserved praise from the racing folk, not least the favourite backers among us.
It’s not just plum rides, Kennedy can provide, however. I have to be honest when I say I was on the fence regarding Kennedy for much of the season. That was until I saw him lose his balance aboard Bilko (pictured above) at a Thurles race meeting earlier in the month. Usually you wouldn’t necessarily commend a jockey for losing their balance after a jump, but what followed from Kennedy was nothing short of a professional circus act. With the horse nosediving into the turf, it seemed the jockey was to be unseated out of the side door. Kennedy however, rode on. Holding onto the horse’s neck, with just his torso on the saddle and both legs out of the left of Bilko he managed to heroically stay on top before sliding himself round and into the saddle once more. The horse went on to be pulled up, but it was his sheer determination that I thought was so pleasing to see. Jockeys (wrongly) get too much stick for their pitfalls and it was refreshing to see somebody so young do all he could to keep the horse in the race, even if it didn’t end up finishing.
Jack Kennedy, aged 11 winning at the Dingle Pony racing.
Turning eighteen in April, there is no doubt in my mind that we have a future champion in our midst and somebody for not just the Irish contingent to get behind. Kennedy is quite obviously a jockey to keep on side of at the moment, both for the arsenal of horses he has to choose from but also for his fantastic ability. However, with the hopeful speedy recovery from the superb Bryan Cooper, it would be naive to allow Elliot’s rising star to take a step back from the limelight completely in the coming months, particularly come The Festival in March. Keep it up Jack!