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My Racing Story

My Racing Story

Keithen Kennedy

Keithen KennedyKeithen Kennedy
© Photo Healy Racing

I'm from Monasterevin, Co Kildare and I'm riding since I could walk really. My grandad used to have a few of his own horses. None of my family would really be into racing, but I got into riding ponies. Then, when I was about 11 or 12, I started pony racing which is a great place to start. It gives you loads of experience of race riding and gets your brain set up for the track. My cousin Aidan Melia supplied me with more than 20 winners pony racing. He was very good to me and got me going. I was all over the country pony racing up to Donegal and down to Kerry and sometimes over to Scotland as well. When I was about 11, I was in with trainer Seamus Fahey and he was very good to me. He got me going riding racehorses and gave me loads of experience riding work. I was always small when I was young and everyone used to tell me I should be a jockey. Thank God I stayed that way and my weight is good. I wouldn't wake up more than eight stone every morning. Hopefully, things stay like that.

I started in Jessica Harrington's three summers ago and I'm signed on to Jessica as an apprentice. My father would be good friends with Shane Foley and he got me in there. I haven't looked back since. They have been very good to me and they are great people to work for. They are easy to get along with and have given me plenty of opportunities. Jessica is brilliant. She has been in the game a long time and knows everything about it. She wouldn't really tell you what to do when you are going out - she would give you an idea or her thoughts about it. It is easy to ride for her. We start at 8am and usually ride about five or six lots. Kate (Harrington) organises a lot in there.

The feeling when I had my first winner on Glamorously at Navan in October last year was unreal. I couldn't believe it as I had only taken my licence out in late September. Kate texted me a few days before to say that I would be riding Glamorously and I was delighted. My mother and father were there. It was during the week so others were working or in school. My parents were over the moon, they have been driving me all around the country since I was 11 or 12. My father brings me up to Dundalk, so I am very thankful to them. I'm still in school at the minute doing the Leaving Cert. The school is very good as they know I would be busy enough at this time of year. They are not hard on me and they know what I want to do when I leave school. They know school is not my main priority and I'm doing it to keep my mother happy! I've only a couple of months left now. The plan will be to go into Jessica's every day when I finish school and we'll go from there.

My aim is to ride more winners. I've built up a good connection with John McConnell over the winter - he has given me eight or nine winners. Big thanks to Kevin O'Ryan my agent as well for getting me all the spins. I rode for John in Dundalk a few times and struck up a good strike rate with him. He has been giving me plenty of chances since and his horses were going well over the winter, and they still are. Hopefully, I can keep building up connections and go from there - I rode a winner for Sheila Lavery on Global Energy on the first day of the turf season at the Curragh last month. I will be able to go and ride work for other people when I finish school and will be in Jessica's every morning. I'm excited to get going properly at it. One of my long-term goals is to ride at Royal Ascot - it looks unbelievable. It has always been a dream of mine since watching it on TV. It is a long way away, but it would be nice to be riding there some day.

I rode two horses at Chelmsford on Good Friday - one for John (Noble Crusade) that I got no run on and the second one (May Night) a winner for Denis Hogan. I didn't know I was going to ride May Night until the Friday before and it was great to pick up that ride over there. Big thanks to Denis and the owners for the opportunity. It was a great experience, the crowd over there was unbelievable. It is all about learning new tracks, it takes you a while to get used to them but pony racing has been a very useful start. It gives you a good racing brain.

I'd say my first winner was my most enjoyable day so far. I used to ride Glamorously out a bit at home and in work. Obviously, she was such a big price (25/1) and it wasn't expected. It was great for that syndicate (Glamour & Glory Syndicate) who are very good and have a few horses now. Hopefully, they keep going too.

Keithen winning on Global Energy at the Curragh in MarchKeithen winning on Global Energy at the Curragh in March
© Photo Healy Racing

I have had 12 winners now and would hope to ride plenty of winners this season - keep kicking on! I love working in the Irish racing industry and I couldn't imagine doing anything else. I don't know what I would do without racing. The people involved in it are very kind to me and there is a great atmosphere. I would follow the National Hunt a bit, kind of just the big days really especially this weekend with Aintree. My weight is good, so hopefully if it stays that way I will stay on the Flat. If not, I would have no problem going jumping. I did plenty of hunting and schooling in other yards. I wouldn't be very good at giving jump racing tips, but I think Martin Brassil's horse Panda Boy looks like a proper horse for the Grand National. His horses are going well.

Keithen was in conversation with Michael Graham

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About Michael Graham

Michael has worked in horse racing journalism for more than 15 years, having also written a weekly betting column on Gaelic football and hurling for a newspaper. He is involved in writing the My Racing Story features on this website. He spent a year in South Africa completing a Diploma in Business Administration and also studied Newspaper Journalism in Belfast. He enjoys playing 5-a-side football on a regular basis.

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