Karen is a winner alright!

Karen Kenny from Cahersiveen receiving her prize after a fantastic victory at Ayr Racecourse in Scotland, in what was her first UK win ever aboard Stamp of Authority
Karen Kenny from Cahersiveen receiving her prize after a fantastic victory at Ayr Racecourse in Scotland, in what was her first UK win ever aboard Stamp of Authority

Stephen Fernane

Anyone involved in horse racing will tell you that wins are hard to come by. But Cahersiveen jockey Karen Kenny recently celebrated her first UK win at Ayr Racecourse aboard the Tom McCourt trained Stamp of Authority - a win that makes all the hard work feel worth it.

"It was a fantastic feeling and it would have felt like a long ferry journey home if things had gone wrong. It was my first time in Ayr and to have my first win there was special," said Karen. 

To say Karen is absolutely thrilled with her ride on the Invincible Spirit gelding is an understatement. The horse finished strongest over seven furlongs but for Karen it's a win that stretches all the way back to her childhood in Cahersiveen.

Karen's father, the late Kevin, enjoyed having a share in a horse with his close friend Christy Riordan. Karen was more than happy to join them on their missions to find the next Arkle, which is when she fell in love with the sport.  

"The love grew from there, really. When I was only a year old, dad would take me down to Jack Bell's yard in Cahersiveen. I used to love looking at the horses and I grew more addicted to it," said Karen.

The natural progression followed by all aspiring jockeys was no different for Karen. Local man Paddy Cournane had 'a yard full of pony racers' which is where Karen first saddled up. 

At 15 she took part in the Racing Academy and Centre of Education (RACE) in Kildare. And even though Karen went back to complete her Leaving Cert, she always knew what she wanted to do. 

"I remember begging my dad as a child to have a word with Paddy [Cournane] to try and get me into his yard. It all started off for me at the Cahersiveen Races. Over the years I've worked with trainers Brendan Powell, Archie Watson and Alan McCabe in England."

Back in Ireland, Karen worked with Tom Lacey, Francis Casey and Pat Martin. Currently, she is based with trainer Tom McCourt in County Meath, a trainer, Karen says, that has given her career a huge lift.

"Tom has a great eye for horses and he deserves a huge mention. It's hard to get on in the sport in England and Tom asked me to come back and work for him. He's given me great opportunities. I'm here in the yard every morning at 7.30, even though Tom tells me it takes me until 8am to get moving!" she jokes. 

Karen knows full well that horse racing is a labour of love. The famous County Limerick trainer Michael Hourigan once described it as: 'a sport that would tame lions'. 

Having come back to fitness following a heavy fall, Karen's win at Ayr has come at the right time. "The win has really helped my enthusiasm and I can't see myself ever not working with horses. It gives you a boost. 

"I weigh around 7st 10Ib so I plan to stay riding on the flat. It's great for the sport to see more and more female riders and we're definitely able to ride on equal terms with the men. 

"It's one of the only sports where men and women take part equally. It's physically a tough and demanding sport and you have to really love it to do it." 

Lastly, Karen refuses to let the conversation peter out without mention of her mother Marian Kenny and her mom's friend, Josephine Sugrue, both of whom are big followers of Karen's career. 

"They've been to a few of the race meetings to watch me. My mother is a great support to me. She gets my love of horses and understands how tough it is to catch a break, she keeps me going. 

"Even though I'm delighted with my win, it's an extremely humbling sport and you learn to look at everything realistically."