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Can Jack Kennedy Have Another Big Cheltenham Festival?


In the midst of Rachael Blackmore and Henry de Bromhead’s Cheltenham Festival fairytale last March, there is still a sense that Jack Kennedy’s amazing meeting was somewhat overshadowed by the fantastic achievements of Blackmore, who became the first female rider to win the Top Jockey award, and trainer De Bromhead, who completed the incredible triple crown — winning the Champion Hurdle, the Queen Mother Champion Chase and the prestigious Gold Cup.

Of course, what won’t be forgotten is the fact that it was Kennedy — a then 21-year-old — who delivered that mammoth Gold Cup victory for De Bromhead last year. Aboard Minella Indo, the lesser favoured of the Knockeen trainer’s showpiece race entries, Kennedy guided the 9/1 shot home, ahead of his stablemate A Plus Tard and Blackmore to win the Gold Cup by just over a length — becoming the youngest ever rider to win the blue riband race in the process.

In total, there were four winners for Kennedy across the course of the week, bettering the tally of defending Top Jockey Paul Townend (3), who had the benefit of riding Willie Mullins’ best horses at the Festival — something the now 22-year-old certainly couldn’t claim as he was left with the so-called ‘second-string’ horses from the likes Gordon Elliott’s and De Bromhead’s yards.

Black Tears was his only other Grade 1 triumph, but it was once again from left of field in the Cheltenham 2022 odds — beating Mullins’ odds-on favourite Concertista and Townend by nothing more than a head in the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle from 11/1.

Victories in the saddles of Galvin in the National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup and Mount Ida in the Kim Muir Challenge Cup notched his overall tally at the Festival to nine.

Related: No Davy Russell At This Year’s Cheltenham Festival, So Who Are The Jockeys To Watch?

This year, Kennedy’s booked rides will likely be bigger and better than ever, and it seems crazy to say given that he is still only a fresh-faced 22-year-old — yet true — that he is already a hugely experienced rider with a CV that most jockeys would be happy to reflect on when they hang up their whip, let alone boast when they are still in their very early 20s and at such a premature stage of their riding days.

It could be a rapid start to the meeting for the young Irishman as well, as he is due to be in the saddle of Mighty Potter in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, a 10/1 chance but already a Grade 1 winner in Ireland, while Riviere D’etel, one of the favourites for the following Arkle Challenge Trophy, is the ride Kennedy has already claimed he is most looking forward to at the Festival.

“I’d say out of all of them Riviere D’etel is the one I’m most looking forward to riding,” he said. “It’s a fairly hot contest but she’s been very good all season and she’s going to love coming up that hill.

“She doesn’t know when she’s beaten, you saw that at Leopardstown and she’s all heart. She’s a hardy young horse and has loads of experience. It wasn’t like her to make a mistake like she did at Leopardstown but she’s a novice and they all make mistakes at some point. Hopefully she’ll learn from it.”

He’ll then be aboard Zanahiyr in the Champion Hurdle, day one’s feature, but it would take something extremely special to knock Blackmore and Honeysuckle off their pedestal. Kennedy will also have great opportunities for victories with Tide Turns in the Boodles Juvenile Hurdle, Ginto in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, Minella Crooner in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle and either Fil Dor or Piped Pier in the Triumph Hurdle.

In terms of the defence of his Gold Cup title, it has been confirmed that Kennedy will not be riding Minella Indo in the showpiece race — with Robbie Power taking that ride for De Bromhead as Elliott has claimed the 22-year-old back as his second rider after last season’s ban. That leaves Kennedy with Irish Gold Cup winner Conflated, who is fancied at around 10/1 in the Gold Cup Day tips.

But whether or not the Gigginstown House Stud-owned horse competes in the highlight or the Ryanair Chase remains to seen — as Elliott and Michael O’Leary are set to clash heads over what race the eight-year-old competes in.

This is a young lad, who has already racked up 32 Grade 1 winners to his name, and he’s not afraid to shy away from the biggest occasions on the jump racing calendar. You can bet he’ll ride his fair share of winners this year! Will he get close to Townend or Blackmore in the race for the Top Jockey trophy? Probably not, but he will still have a very big four days!

The post Can Jack Kennedy Have Another Big Cheltenham Festival? appeared first on Complete Sports.

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