PAT HEALY: Irish racing’s favourite photographer this week reflects on the Breeders’ Cup, including Colin Keane’s success, and picks out another horse for you to keep an eye on.
It was a great night for the European contingent at the Breeders’ Cup, with the highlights from a personal perspective being the success of Ballydoyle and Dermot Weld. It was great to see Aidan [O’Brien] notch up his 13th success over there, while Dermot finally got on the Breeders’ Cup scoreboard too. Dermot hasn’t had many Breeders’ Cup runners but, as the case with him, when he fires the arrow at these big events it usually hits the bullseye.
Tarnawa is a great filly and I hope she stays in training next year. You just have to look back through her form to see that Dermot clearly knew the ability was there. After finishing 9th behind Star Catcher in the Group One Filly & Mares on Champions Day at Ascot last year, Dermot put her away for 10 months before unleashing her to bolt up in a Group 3 at Cork in August and then, bang, bang, bang, three Group Ones in a row! It’s a fantastic training performance from Dermot the way he’s brought her along and plotted her targets and if she can keep improving what price would she be for next year’s Arc?
There isn’t a man in the game who doesn’t feel for Christophe Soumillon having missed three winners in America over the weekend. It’s obviously a pretty bitter pill to swallow, but Christophe is a top-class jockey and he’ll be back.
As much as we’re delighted for Dermot Weld, we are absolutely over the moon for Colin “Baby Mick” Keane. He was in the right place at the right time to pick up the spare ride on Tarnawa of course, but what I loved about Colin’s ride on her was that he kept riding his own race even after Pierre-Charles Boudout’s move on Mogul half way down the back straight. It would have been easy to follow Boudout after he’d already ridden two winners with his confidence sky high, but Colin let Boudot do his thing and continued to ride his own fractions, waiting for the home straight to unleash his run and Tarnawa flew past the field in devastating fashion.
I thought it really showed the jockeyship of Colin Keane. He has now arrived on the worldwide stage with that ride, and I think it’s safe to say he’s now riding on the same level as Mick Kinane, Johnny Murtagh and Pat Smullen.
It was a fantastic way to round of the year for Colin. Winning the Irish Championship with 100 winners despite being out for two weeks with Covid isolation, his first and second Classic winners on Siskin and Even So respectively for his boss Ger Lyons, and then winning the Group 1 Matron Stakes for Johnny Murtagh. He’s had a simply fantastic season and hopefully he stays in one piece because he has now got to the level of the greats. Speaking of Pat Smullen ,sure you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t leak a tear thinking of him after Tarnawa’s success and in a way it’s nice to think that he was guiding the filly with Baby Mick.
If you go down the top 25 jockeys in the Irish jockey standings this year, they have all rode in pony racing at the start of their careers. Colin and Shane Foley fought out the championship this year and 10 years ago they were going riding around the holy grail of the pony racing game, Dingle. The young lads that have broken through this year, Champion Apprentice Gavin Ryan, Group 1 winners Shane Cross, Joey Sheridan & Oisin Orr, Ben Coen, Dylan Browne McMonagle and Sam Ewing have all come up through the pony racing game, showing how well it sets them up for the rigours and demands of being a professional jockey.
I know I’ve said this before, but I can’t stress enough that we’re in danger of losing a generation of jockeys if we don’t look after the pony racing circuit. I think it’s now time for the authorities to step up and do something about it. Can Dundalk be made available? It should be investigated. We are quick to applaud the likes of Colin Keane when they go abroad and ride big winners, pointing out that he has graduated from the pony racing game, but if we don’t look after it, we won’t have any pony racing for these young lads to learn and apply their trade from.
While the Race Academy in Kildare is a huge and important cog in the wheel and does a fantastic job, there is nothing like the cut and thrust of race riding from 10 years of age. The proof is in the pudding. Lads like Colin Keane bring that experience and knowledge with them and carry on improving.
We tipped up Ginto a few weeks ago as one to keep an eye on. I wasn’t the only one who was impressed as he made £470,000 at the sales last week being bought by Noel & Valerie Moran and he’ll continue to be trained by Gordon Elliott. One to watch out from last weekend is the full brother to Douvan, Jonbon. He goes to the sales next week and he was very impressive at Dromahane point-to-point, winning by 15 lengths for trainer Ellmarie Holden. He cost £140,000 as a three-year-old at the 2019 Derby sale, and if Ginto made £470,000 also by the sire of Jonbon, Walk In The Park, answers on a postcard please as to what this fella might fetch!