JACK Kennedy from Dingle was this week savouring the moment as he came to grips with becoming national champion horse and pony racing jockey for 2012.
Not only that but the 13-year old swept all before him on the Southern circuit by taking the region's pony, horse and overall titles as well. It is the first time that all four championships have gone to the one jockey. Jack will be crowned champion both regionally and nationally at the Killarney Oaks Hotel on Saturday, November 24 at 8pm.
Having ridden eleven winners in the pony division in 2011 it was universally believed that Jack had built a solid foundation for the move up to horses in 2012. However not even his most ardent supporters would have dreamt of what lay ahead in season 2012. The campaign got off to the perfect start in Ballyheigue on New Years Day with a double on Molly's Dream and Rock Hopper with the latter becoming his first spin and his first win in the horse division. Following the winter break it was full speed ahead as summer dawned for the traditional May return in Newmarket, Co Cork.
With another three winners to add from the north Cork venue courtesy of Molly's Dream, Rock Hopper and Bruce On The Loose it was clear that Kennedy had taken the step up in grade like a duck to water. However, even by mid season and with the winners still flowing in places like Ballyferriter, New Ross, Castleisland and Abbeyfeale long odds would still have been available on Jack Kennedy becoming Southern champion let alone National hero as he battled away with fellow aspirants Conor King, Denis Linehan, Oisin Murphy and Finny Maguire.
Crucially, though, the Dingle star was broadening his base all the time as more opportunities beckoned and a link up with the Three County Syndicate and Northern based Jill Robinson allied to his existing ties with dad Billy, David Granville,Gary Boyle and Sean Moriarty would prove decisive at seasons end.
Then on the final weekend in July the Kennedy bandwagon stepped up another gear with seven winners in the space of twenty four hours at meetings in Broadford, county Limerick and Ballyglunin, county Galway where he was to be leading jockey on both days. Indeed, the win on Euro King at the Galway venue was to be his 50th win in the sport. This winning bonanza catapulted young Kennedy to the top of the seasons statistics with eight weeks left and a mighty battle lay ahead with the reigning southern and joint national champion Conor King.
he Cheltenham of pony racing in Dingle was good to both star jockeys but King came out of the festival with five winners to Kennedys three with the local races discounted and from here it was all to play for. Again crucially Kennedy had added another feather in his blossoming career as he had taken the prestigious Guinness Golden Mile, the Push The Button Mile and the 14.2 pony derby to his cv as well as a fine third on his first ride in the Dawn Milk Dingle Derby on The Last Hurrah.
The pendulum swung too and fro for the remainder of August but on the first weekend of September the wonderful Rossbeigh beach was to provide the young Dingle man with another weekend to remember as he rode six winners at the famous Glenbeigh racing festival. Kennedy was now in pole position and riding on the crest of a wave with style, strength, confidence and a gritty determination.
The final three meetings in Kilkee, Ballingarry and Asdee saw the likes of Mollys Dream, Thanks Ma, Rock Hopper and Good Times Ahead stretch the Kennedy lead to an unassailable nine in the South and wrap up the national title by four to make it an incredible 45 winners for the season.