Jack Kennedy may only be 21, but he will have to go some to top what he declared as “the best day of my life” after winning the WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup on Minella Indo.
Riding what was perceived as the Henry de Bromhead second-string, with Rachael Blackmore on A Plus Tard, Kennedy took chasing’s blue riband for the first time — and given the stables he rides for and his tender years, it is unlikely to be the last.
Do not for one minute, though, think Kennedy has been handed his privileged position on a plate. While he learned his trade on the competitive pony racing circuit in Ireland, since turning professional he has been beset by injury.
Having suffered no fewer than four broken legs and countless other broken bones, Kennedy has already missed many months of his career, but he will have plenty of opportunities to make up for lost time.
“That tops everything, without a doubt. It’s definitely the best day of my life,” said Kennedy.
“You dream about winning these races as a child. I know I’m still young, but I’ve been in the position to win them for a couple of years so it’s brilliant.
“I thought I had as good a chance as any horse in the race to be honest. I’d gone down to Henry’s to school him and a few of the lads there were fairly keen on him, so I was fairly confident going out.
“The fact that Rachael chose A Plus Tard took the pressure off me a bit as well, so it was great.”
Blackmore has not got much wrong this week, but despite winning the Albert Bartlett a couple of years ago on Minella Indo and coming close to winning what is now the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase, she opted for Savills Chase winner A Plus Tard.
Turning into the straight it was clear the De Bromhead pair had it between them, with Al Boum Photo, winner of the previous two renewals, clear of the rest in third.
“I had to switch in and out a couple of times as I wanted a clear view of his fences, without going wide at the same time, but it went very smooth. He travelled and jumped great and there wasn’t any point in the race I wasn’t very happy,” said Kennedy.
“The whole way through the race I was happy, but I was left in front very soon and he pricked his ears after the last. When A Plus Tard came to him, he went on again.
“Turning into the straight, I knew it would take something very good to beat him. Although I was there too soon, I didn’t want to disappoint him. I was very confident the whole way.”
Kennedy could be seen wiping away tears of joy after crossing the line.
“I was emotional. This is massive and I can’t believe it’s happening to be honest. It means the world to me,” he said.
“I’ve broken my leg four times, I missed the meeting last year, but thankfully I’ve had a year this year that I’ll remember for a long time.
“Injuries can take their toll, but it could always be a lot worse at the same time, broken legs and collar bones heal. It’s unfortunate, but you just have to get on with it.
“It’s been great in the Irish bubble, so many lads have had their first winner here which is brilliant, we’re all in fairly good form in there.”
Kennedy, of course, is intrinsically linked to the Gordon Elliott yard which had been in the news for all the wrong reasons in the weeks before the Festival.
He only came in for the ride on Minella Indo when his expected mount, Delta Work, was ruled out through injury.
“I’m in such a good position that I have a very good job and any time I’ve been injured, Gordon and (Michael and Eddie) the O’Learys have always stood by me and said my job is there when I get back,” said Kennedy.
“When you’ve horses of that calibre to get back for, if you can’t get back for them there’s no point doing it.”