sport news HORSE POWER: Jumping Jack Kennedy is as quick as a flash and in one of those ... trends now
One of the great joys of sport is being there when an athlete is in the zone and you know, with certainty, they can't be stopped.
It's the footballer who will rifle one in from 30 yards, the flanker who will evade tackles with elastic hips en route to a try, the batsman who will dance down the wicket and hoick a drive out the middle of the bat. You can see the picture they intend to paint before it happens.
That's how it was at Fairyhouse last weekend with Jack Kennedy, but, then again, that's how it has been all winter for Gordon Elliott's stable jockey. It has been one big prize pocketed after another by the 24-year-old.
'I've only ever got good things to say about Jack,' said Elliott after watching his rider produce a masterclass on Teahupoo to land the Hatton's Grace Hurdle, Kennedy's tactics having been to come with one sustained run to flatten Impaire Et Passe.
There's more to it with Kennedy this season, however. Winning the top prizes is all well and good but he is jumping off his horses after races and eagerly looking for the next challenge. That refusal to dwell on success sets the very best apart.
At the moment, Ireland's fantastic Jack Kennedy is in one of those unstoppable moods
Standing out as a jockey in Ireland is a huge task. The competition, which begins when riders are still children competing in pony races, is ferocious and the desperation to one day ride the top horses at Cheltenham equates to young kids here who dream of growing up to score the FA Cup final winner. Kennedy, though, has always been someone whose reputation has been that bit different.
To give you a reminder of his talent, it was Kennedy who somehow conjured a remarkable ride on an old rogue called Labaik — whose party trick was planting at the start and refusing to race — to win the 2017 Supreme Novices' Hurdle at the Festival. Jack was only 17 at the time.
You should really have heard more about Kennedy, whose 10 Cheltenham Festival wins include the 2021 Gold Cup on Minella Indo, but his career has been pockmarked with desperate, injury-induced bad luck. He has broken his leg, among other things, five times.
Perhaps you can understand, then, why he is in such a hurry to make up for lost time. His dream is to one day be Ireland's Champion Jockey — it has been won for the last five years by Paul Townend — and 2024 might just be when that dream comes true.
After a career hit by unlucky injuries, he looks to be in a rush to make up for the lost time
Already Kennedy has established a 23-winner lead over Townend (73 to 50) and he is riding at a pace that may yet see him surpass the best total since the turn of the century — set by Ruby Walsh (131) in 2007-08 and 2016-17 — though nothing will be taken for granted.
'All jockeys know you live for today as tomorrow is promised to no one,' Walsh once said.
He's right about that. This is the most unpredictable and fickle business, an industry where a jink or a false step can have calamitous and long-lasting consequences.
Kennedy, with all his falls, has the scars to prove it.