PAT HEALY: This week Pat is on the ground at the Breeders’ Cup and pays tribute to the retiring Kevin Manning and Champion Jockey Colin Keane
There have already been fantastic tributes paid to Kevin Manning, and all the column inches are richly deserved. For five decades Kevin rode winners, from 1983 up until this Monday in Galway. Eight Classics, 37 Group 1s and about 1700 winners worldwide – what a career.
If you had to tell any young fellow starting off as a jockey today how to behave as a person and as a professional, all you had to do was to point him in the direction of Kevin Manning. He was always generous to the younger jockeys in the weighing room, giving them good advice and guidance.
He was good fun socially as well, great craic to have a drink with and of course he was a keen Dublin GAA fan.
For me personally, Kevin brought me back to a time when I started out in racing, in the early 1980s. In the last couple of years, having Kevin around the weighing room has always served as a connection back to the riders of that era.
Kevin would have been very friendly with Mick Kinane, Stephen Craine, Pat Shanahan and of course Christy Roche. That era has well and truly gone now.
I think it was only when he retired, that young riders in the weighing room realised they’d love to have a career like Kevin Manning – how long he was in the game and all that he had achieved.
He competed against fantastic champion jockeys including Christy Roche, Mick Kinane, Johnny Murtagh, Pat Smullen and now Colin Keane.
I’d like to wish Kevin a very happy retirement, he was always a gentleman to deal with and I look forward to seeing him in a different role going forward.
Colin Keane and Billy Lee
Well done to Colin Keane on becoming champion jockey for a fourth time. It’s an incredible achievement for someone who still has the best years ahead of him. He’s in esteemed company with only Liam Ward, Johnny Roe, Christy Roche, Mick Kinane, Johnny Murtagh and Pat Smullen having won more jockeys’ titles.
Colin has been fantastic all season and I’d like to send him my congratulations.
My only disappointment is that a great title race was cut short. Billy Lee lost his appeal against his whip suspension on Wednesday morning, which meant he’d miss the final two days of the season at Dundalk on Friday and Naas on Sunday, and that effectively handed the championship to Colin.
I’ve said my piece on it last week. I just hope it doesn’t leave a sour taste in Billy’s mouth. He’s been fantastic all season, he’s a credit to his profession and hopefully next year he might get over the line and bag his maiden championship.
I’ve said it before, I think the Irish jockey colony is the toughest jockey colony anywhere in the world. When you get to the level that Billy Lee has got to this season, that means you’re a world class rider.
It was fantastic to see Noble Yeats back in the winners’ enclosure at Wexford on Monday. He looked very, very impressive, and, for me, he looked like a horse who really enjoyed himself.
How many times have we seen Aintree Grand National winners that have never won again after winning the great race? But to see Noble Yeats go around Wexford the other day under Sean Bowen, it was fantastic to watch.
I’m sure Emmet Mullins has his chest puffed out after that. Emmet didn’t actually say where he was pinpointing him to for his next run, but a return to Aintree is the ultimate aim.
Hopefully he can remain in this vein of form for the whole season and who’s to say that he can’t win back-to-back Grand Nationals come April.
100 Point-to-Point winners
I was at the County Meath & Tara Point-to-Point at Tattersalls last Sunday, where jockey Harley Dunne rode his 100th point-to-point winner on a mare called Working Away for trainer Dennis Murphy.
It’s a great achievement by Harley, it takes some doing to ride 100 point-to-point winners and we give him our congratulations.
I’m in Keeneland and looking forward to the Breeders’ Cup. Obviously, all the talk is about Flightline. He is an impressive beast to look at and he wouldn’t be out of place if Willie Mullins trained him and he had Paul Townend on his back!
From a racing point of view the one race I’m most looking forward to is the Classic on Saturday and watching him in action.
We wish all the Irish runners – the Aidan O’Brien and Joseph O’Brien runners and of course the Willie Browne-trained Spirit Gal – at the Breeders’ Cup all the very best of luck.