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Finding For Pressure with Dan Kelly

This week’s FFP blog with Dan Kelly……


Driver errors leave Coolmore thinking which route to take.


Whilst Annus Mirabilis goes through the sales ring late October, Joseph O’Brien will be hoping to close off an anything but a wonderful year at Santa Anita, which will play host to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships.


Yes, Coolmore will have a dual Derby winner to add to their 2015 Stallion Roster in the equine form of Australia, but the performance that will be remember by many racing followers will be when in the inaugural running of Irish Champions Weekend, Joseph forgot his ABCs; Anyone Bar Coolmore.


Now, I know Mastercraftsman is a Coolmore sire, and The Grey Gatsby’s victory isn’t such a bitter pill to swallow, but Joseph O’Brien’s ride here and at Longchamp last weekend suggested two things; that Joseph is marked man not only due to the outfit he rides for, but also for the way he rides.
In a recent blog post for Coral, Jamie Spencer praised Ryan Moore on the eve of the Irish Champion Stakes;


“He’s got a great ability to just get on a horse and regardless of pressure or the importance of the race just separate himself from that.


He’s just a great jockey. The best I’ve ridden against.


But what makes me like him and rate him even more is that he’s a really clean rider. Some riders will wipe you out during a race to win. It’s out of order or needless. Yet with Ryan I just can’t think of a time that he’s done that to me. Of course with race riding it’s every man for himself from the two furlong pole but early in the race he’s a really clean rider and that’s why everyone gets on with him. And that works in his favour too as when you’re on one going backwards and he’s going forwards you get out of his way, where you might not with someone you get on less well with.”


As they left the back straight of the Irish Champions Stakes, there was a chance for Joseph to get across from his wide position and tuck in behind them. On his direct inside was Kevin Manning riding Trading Leather for Godolphin. Kevin didn’t let him in, rightly so, but what Joseph didn’t do was pause and think, and makes the decision to take a pull rather than try and circle the field in trying to win the race. Inches upon inches have been written about his ride, but in simple terms the best horse finished second due to jockey error.


The victor, with the cleanest ride of all, The Grey Gatsby ridden by Ryan Moore. Clean more so due to being in the right place at the right time more the case here, but another clean ride none the less.


On Sunday, Joseph O’Brien was anything but clean, and not for the first time this season. Gleneagles was rightly demoted to third in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere as when quickening his mount drifted off a straight line resulting in Full Mast and Territories being squeezed out. His poor riding was rightly punished. Joseph should consider himself very lucky that the race was run on the Sunday of the two day meeting, as otherwise he’d be sitting out British Champions Day serving one of his 6 days suspension, and missing out on Australia’s final run of his career.


Given, in the immediate aftermath, how at ease the racing world was with the likely demotion, it’s such a surprise that rides like his in the Ascot Gold Cup or Andrea Atzeni’s when winning the St Leger aboard Kingston Hill aren’t labelled as dirty, or winning ugly, as they should be. But don’t hate the player, hate the game, and I hope in future the BHA will look more closely at adopting the French philosophy, whether that is in the form of centralised stewarding or otherwise.


Joseph O’Brien, by accident or by design, has found himself on the wrong end of a misuse of the whip ban at Ascot, losing a race on a horse that was far superior to the others in the Irish Champion Stakes, and costing a future Coolmore Stallion a second 2yo Group 1 win. To rub salt into the wound, he’ll also lost valuable points towards being crowned the Longines World’s Best Jockey Award. We’ll come back to that at a later date.


However, Joseph could walk into 95% of yards and be their stable jockey, there’s no doubt he’s quality jockey, but his performances recently, and his ongoing battle with his weight, will leave them thinking one thing this winter at County Tipperary.


Is Joseph the right lead jockey for Team Coolmore?


Follow Dan Kelly here and let him know your views….

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