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Jamie Lynch: Jack's a master of his trade

Jamie Lynch looks at one rising star, and one dimmed by recent events, in this week's column.

'Welcome to our Work Zone' the sign says. With an exclamation mark!

That's what the Highways Agency have got the cheek to greet drivers with on the 50 mph stretch of the M1. The 100-mile 50 mph stretch of the M1.

Most welcome notices strike the fit and proper tone, one of cordiality, even geniality, such as those at theme parks, shops, racecourses, the Türk Telekom Arena, Thunderdomes, or the one at Ballydoyle that may or may not greet O'Meara.

But, just as the dentist or Radio 1 has the self-awareness not to welcome you into something tortuous, the Highways Agency needs to make an illegal manoeuvre, a U-turn on the motorway, of less insincerity and more accuracy, which is, after all, the only job of a roadway signpost. Driving you to despair. That should do it. 

The normal course of action on the restricted motorway areas is the Bucks Fizz ploy: You gotta speed it up, and then you gotta slow it down (when approaching anything that looks remotely like a camera).

Nudging the speed limit, back-door downloading of the odd song, back-door downloading of the odd specialist film, and a spot of outdoor drinking are all accepted crimes, but none compare with the daylight robbery of Jack Kennedy claiming a 7-lb apprentice allowance. Unlike the others, it’s not a victimless crime, either, because almost any other jockey in the same race as Kennedy, whilst he’s claiming, can be considered a victim.

You saw it in the Ebor, where a Kennedy-powered Wicklow Brave beat all bar the Lazarus-like Litigant in a strong and 19-strong field. Yes, he got a nine-day whip ban, and yes it was warranted, but it was a big occasion, it was the Ebor, and it was clearly the action and reaction of an over-zealous youth - Kennedy is 17 years old.

What’s new to us was knew by many in Ireland, where Kennedy was the premier jockey on the pony circuit, breaking all sorts of records.

Even before his first win on his ninth ride under Rules, aboard 33/1-shot Funny How, there was a faint alarm sounding in the Commodore 64 at Timeform that calculates jockey ratings. Ever since Funny How, a further 16 winners and counting, Flat and jumps, on top of extraordinary numbers across the barometric board, has seen the man behind the Timeform jockey ratings, Michael Williamson (@RacingMDWilly), wandering dazedly around the office uttering ‘Great Scott’ in the style of Dr Emmett Brown.

The last two claimers to boast such formidable figures so early in their career were Johnny Burke, now the retained rider for Alan Potts, and last jumps season’s champion conditional Sean Bowen. That’s the company Kennedy is in and the direction he’s heading.

Though dual-purpose for now, it’s more the jumps world Kennedy will take by storm, based with Gordon Elliott, which is a match made in heaven.

He’s just a cosmic boy, from another galaxy, rides winners with great frequency – that’s JK.

***

From a rising star that is Jack Kennedy to a shining one that has just dimmed recently, the Golden Horn inquest after his defeat in the International is, to some extent, still ongoing. Each theory carries weight, whether it’s the sapping ground, the unsynchronised pacemaker, the overworked Horn, the underperforming Horn, the later-season syndrome, or - as preached by the one rather than the many – simply meeting his match with a brilliant filly.

But there is one overarching consideration, which draws together all and more of the above factors, as well as giving some perspective to the general topical debate about the running - or not as the point is – of all the best horses in all of the best races.

In 2015, more than ever, the ducking and diving of the headline acts has put a strain on the season, but we perhaps underestimate the strain on the horses. The growing consensus is that the premier races should almost be seen as an obligation rather than an invitation, citing Frankel and Sea The Stars as examples of how things should be done, but their brilliance in answering every question makes it easy to forget just how many varied questions they had to answer.

It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts that the less we see of the top horses the less we appreciate what goes into them, training in the fullest sense of the word. We become judge and jury on the evidence of a few minutes on the track, possibly undervaluing the demands of race-specific preparation.

Take Golden Horn as the pertinent illustration. We saw a different Golden Horn in the International to the Dante, over the same course and distance. The reason Golden Horn was supplemented for the Derby was not only because of the form he achieved but also the clinical way he went about it – settled, quickened, stayed – which raised expectations of him lasting out a trip at Epsom that, as was well documented, even his owner Anthony Oppenheimer doubted was in his range.

So after the Dante came the training for the Derby, focused on stamina, and after the Derby came the training for the 10-furlong Eclipse, focused on speed, including the well-hatched, well-executed plan of a tactical switch by making the running. Many questions asked of him, all answered in the affirmative.

But then came York, with the trip of the Eclipse but the ride of the Derby, and you could forgive Golden Horn for not settling anything like so well as he had in the Dante because of everything that was done for him and to him in the interim, remodeled several times over.

Golden Horn is still a great horse, but it’s a lesson that even the greats can only have so many questions asked of them, on and off the track, not machines to be rolled out on request as is the current clamour.                

  

 
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