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Vincent Finegan

Vincent Finegan

Jack Kennedy deserves a change of luck

Jack KennedyJack Kennedy
© Photo Healy Racing

Jump racing can be such a tough sport. Jack Kennedy, who’s career has been blighted by injury, was flying on all fronts going into Sunday’s meeting at Naas. The 23-year-old was having his best season ever and was already 18 winners ahead of reigning champion Paul Townend in the race for the Jockeys Championship when disaster struck again.

Kennedy and his mount Time Bandit took a terrible fall at the fourth fence in the Rathmore Stud Novice Chase, from which the poor horse didn’t survive and the rider was left with the fifth broken leg of his short career.

Jack Kennedy seems to have spent more time injured than riding in the seven years since he took out a licence and is now set for another long spell on the sidelines and will most likely be out of action for most of the remainder of the season.

He has bounced back from similar setbacks before and hopefully when he does return this time he finally gets a run of luck that allows him to put his name on the Champion Jockey’s trophy that his talents so richly deserve.

Trainer Gordon Elliott will be gutted for his young stable jockey and this setback will have significant implications for his yard heading into the major races in the coming months. Elliott has a team of regular riders to call on, but there can be no denying that the loss of a rider of the calibre of Kennedy coming so soon after the retirement of Davy Russell leaves the trainer with a problem.

It wouldn’t be the greatest surprise if Russell was persuaded to tog out again for the Elliott team in the coming weeks.

The revelations that surfaced in recent days about last year’s Yearling Sales will send shockwaves across the industry.

Little-known Bloodstock Agent Richard Knight went toe to toe with the big boys at all the major Yearling Sales last Autumn, spending some £20 million on behalf of an undisclosed client, only for the client to renege on their agreement and fail to pay for any of the horses.

Knight was the second biggest spender across the three sessions of Tattersalls’ sale in October including the purchase of the top lot, a Frankel colt for 2,000,000gns. In all he bought 16 Yearlings at Book 1 and another one at Book 2.

He also bought the top lot at the Goffs Orby Sale when he went to €2,600,000 to secure a full-sister to Blackbeard. Knight was also active at Arqana in August and Keeneland in September where he again spent telephone numbers.

Each Sales House has slightly different rules regarding what happens in these circumstances, but Tattersalls, which accounts for over half of Knight’s big-money purchases, has already paid the vendors and must now look to resell the 17 horses in question to recoup their losses.

Up to last year Knight was regularly purchasing horses at Sales for relatively small money - averaging between £20,000 and £30,000 per horse - so you would imagine it should have raised a few red eyebrows when he was all of a sudden bidding millions at the Yearling Sales. I presume he informed the sales companies in advance about his new high-stakes backer who is reported to be Saleh Al Homaizi, a Kuwait businessman, who was joint-owner of 2007 Epsom Derby winner Authorized and a successful breeder.

Aside from the mess that this has created for the bloodstock industry it puts much of last year’s record sales season in doubt. Records were smashed at all the top Sales, in no small part due to the bidding of Knight and his multiple 7-figure buys. Not only did he make the winning bids on some of the most expensive lots, but he also helped drive trade on many other lots where he was the under-bidder.

With the legitimacy of those record numbers now in question racing remains firmly on the backfoot with the latest news that UK racing attendances were set to dip below five million in 2022 for the first time since records began (excluding the Covid years). Irish attendances are also likely to be down, but the overall figure here will still come in at over 20% of the UK total which is impressive considering our population is less than 10% of that in the UK.

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