TWO of Ireland’s most talented young individuals will combine at Newcastle on Saturday when jockey Jack Kennedy climbs aboard Samcro in a mouthwatering Fighting Fifth Hurdle.
Kennedy, a prodigious talented, has already landed a string of big races including four at this year’s Cheltenham Festival, which included victory on Samcro in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.
We spoke to Kennedy about his big-race ride and got the latest on some of the other stars at trainer Gordon Elliott’s yard.
You have been banned for the last couple of weeks. Are you itching to get back in the saddle?
I’m really looking forward it – I can’t wait. It’s massively frustrating waiting for the ban to end so I could get back into action, but I’m raring to go now. I was riding out the whole time so I’ve been busy enough. But it’s been a long couple of weeks, I can tell you.
Your most closely associated with trainer Gordon Elliott. What is that like?
It’s a dream come true to work at a place like that. For any jockey, the chance to ride horses of the class Gordon has is what it’s all about. I consider myself to be very lucky.
And how about Elliott – what sort of a boss is he?
Gordon’s a great guy to work for. There’s a real good atmosphere in the yard and he’s a very easy trainer to ride for. Like I said, it’s a dream come true to work there.
Samcro is back in action at the weekend in what looks a cracking Fighting Fifth Hurdle. That said, would you prefer to be taking on Buveur D’Air and Summerville Boy a little later in the season?
We have to take them on at some stage but I suppose a little later on in the season would be ideal really. Sure, it’s like a mini-Champion Hurdle on Saturday and we’ll know where we stand after the race in terms of the future. Buveur D’Air and Summerville Boy are quality horses, but we couldn’t be happier with Samcro so there won’t be any excuses. I can’t wait to be back on him.
And what do you make of Samcro – what sort of feeling does he give you?
Wow, how do I described that?! He’s an incredible horse and he has so much potential. He’s the best horse I’ve ridden and the horse who has the most room to get even better than he already is. Hopefully he’ll keep progressing and can match our views of him on the racecourse.
Samcro is a horse who generates strong opinions for and against. Does this affect you at all?
It wouldn’t bother me in the slightest. At the end of the day everyone has their own opinion on the horse and they’re entitled to have that. I just let them think whatever they want to think and I’ll deal with what I can control, which is my performance and helping Samcro in his races. I believe he’s a very good horse.
Mengli Khan, a horse you know well, made a winning start over fences this week. What did you make of his performance at Punchestown?
He was very good. He jumped well on the whole. He could’ve been a little bit better over the last two fences but there’s plenty of room for improvement with him. He’s another exciting horse and it’s looking an exciting division as Lalor and Kalashnikov have looked good so far.
We also saw Grand National winner Tiger Roll in action at Cheltenham recently. What was the reaction to his performance?
Everyone was very happy. It was very much a starting point for him and he’ll come on a lot for it when he runs next time. They’ve been pleased with him since and it’s all about getting him back to Cheltenham and the Grand National in the spring. He’s a great character and everyone in the yard loves him.
Another big name is in action this weekend with Apple’s Jade contesting the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse on Sunday. How are things with her?
She’s in great nick. I’m excited to get back on her because she’s obviously a very good filly. It’s a strong race, as you’d expect it to be, but she’s fully entitled to be there and will put in a good performance, I’m sure.
The Hatton’s Grace is one of a number of good races at Fairyhouse on Sunday. Who else are you looking forward to riding?
I ride Blow By Blow in the Drinmore, Tintangle in the Royal Bond, Rogue Angel in the Porterstown and Stooshie in the handicap hurdle. They’ve all got solid chances, but Apple’s Jade is the one I’m most looking forward to.