At the 2018 Cheltenham Festival, you could be forgiven for thinking most of afternoon’s felt like Groundhog Day.
The sight of Jack Kennedy soaring passed the winning post in the infamous maroon and white silks of Gigginstown became part of the furniture at the renewal of National Hunt’s greatest spectacle three years ago.
Samcro. Shattered Love. Farclas. Big pressure? No problem for the 19-year-old, as he was at the time.
It’s fair to say there were some Lucky 15’s paying out a fair whack. But injury blighted that vein of form last season for Kennedy, who suffered a broken leg at the Dublin Racing Festival just a month before he was due to head to Prestbury Park.
However, all roads very much lead to Gloucestershire in this most different of Festival’s next week. The stands will remain empty as has been the case across global sport during the coronavirus era, but the eyes of most in Britain and Ireland will be glued to televisions as the excitement grows.
Jack spoke to Cheltenham.co.uk ahead of his trip across the Irish Sea next week, discussing what the Festival means to him, his hopes for the 2021 renewal and racing in general.
You have 275 wins under your belt before the age of 22, what’s your secret to success?
There’s no secret really. I’ve been very lucky to get so many good opportunities and sat on some very good horses which always helps.
Your best result in the Grand National was coming third with Bless The Wings back in 2018. Who do you fancy for this year’s race and what do you expect to ride?
I’m not sure what I’ll be on yet, but I think Farclas could run well in it. He will run at Cheltenham and fingers crossed all being well, he can go to Aintree with a chance.
What makes the Cheltenham Festival so special for you?
I grew up dreaming about riding there and it’s become a reality so that’s really special. It’s the biggest race meeting for a National Hunt jockey and I’m more excited this year after missing out through injury twelve months ago.
You claimed your first Cheltenham winner at the age of 17 with 25/1 shot Labaik, causing an upset in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2017. What was that experience like?
It was unbelievable – the stuff of dreams. To win the first race of the meeting always settles the nerves and you can enjoy the rest of the week more.
You rode Quilixios to success in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle at this year’s Dublin Festival, how do you rate his chances for the Triumph Hurdle?
He’ll run a big race and shouldn’t be too far away. He’s unbeaten so far and it’s a competitive race but he’s a high class horse.
You’re booked to ride Henry De Bromhead’s Minella Indo in the Gold Cup; how do you fancy his chances?
I think is the ground is any way soft he’ll have a big chance. He won the Albert Bartlett as a hurdler and finished second in the novice race last year, so his course form is very good and hopefully that’s the case again this season.
What horse are you most looking forward to riding at this year Festival and why?
Envoi Allen. He’s extremely exciting. He’s unbeaten in all of his starts so far and hopefully he’ll keep his record in tact next week.
What race would you most like to win and why?
The Gold Cup. It’s the race I’ve always dreamt of winning and is the biggest race in the National Hunt calendar where the best take on the best.
If you could ride Shishkin or Energumene in the Arkle, who would choose?
I’d go for Energumene, but they’re both very good horses and the Arkle should be a great race.
Read our interview with 2020 Stayers’ Hurdle winning jockey, Adam Wedge.