JOCKEY Warren Kennedy is an unassuming individual who flies under the radar most of the time, but he’s always shown what he can do when given the right opportunities. Since relocating to KwaZulu-Natal from Port Elizabeth last October he’s enjoyed a remarkably successful five months as a “standby” rider at Mike de Kock’s Summerveld stables and deserves recognition on our website.
We scanned through Warren’s mounts using Tabgold’s archived results pages and made some statistical notes – unofficial of course but a reliable enough reflection of his achievements in this period.
Warren Kennedy on Sheikh Hamdan’s Shahrasal, a winner at Scottsville on Saturday.
Warren’s single comeback ride on 22 October 2013 yielded a well-beaten last place, ‘stone motherless’ last in South African terms and hardly the start he would have wanted. The next several weeks leading to year-end was marked by an unusual number of race meetings having to be cancelled due to rain. On top of this he battled to secure rides at the meetings that managed to escape Durban’s heavy torrents at what for some Durbanites must have felt like End Times.
Mike’s assistant trainer Nathan Kotzen helped to get the ball rolling by convincing the boss to throw Warren a bone at Scottsville on 10 November – an armchair ride on Mary Slack’s first-timer Cio-Cio, backed to odds-on favourite before the race.
Warren’s secured roughly another 30 rides for the stable since – every mount hard-earned with his work on the gallop track in the morning – but it’s yielded a further 10 winners for an excellent strike rate of around 33% for the Champion Trainer. This boosted the jock’s all-round confidence to a level at which he is now re-established in the Last Outpost. He’s getting his share of quality rides from other stables – he’s popped up with well-judged rides on fancied runners and at least half a dozen rank outsiders from other stables.
Forries Waltz won at 25-1 for Mike de Kock and Chris Gerber.
After Saturday’s Scottsville meeting, at which Warren booted home another De Kock double – 25-1 shot Forries Waltz in Race 1 and 1-4 favourite Shahrasal in Race 2 – he entered the Top 25 on the National Jockeys Log for the first time in five years with his seasonal tally on 30 winners.
Nathan Kotzen commented: “Warren’s working hard, he deserves his success. We told him some time ago to stop bouncing in the saddle when he rides for us, it doesn’t work for all jockeys. He’s now balanced and confident and we’re hoping things get even better for him.”
Warren chuckled at this comment but agreed, saying: “When things start going wrong for jockeys, when we have quiet spells and setbacks, we tend to try whatever we can to change our fortunes and not everything works. I am thankful to Mike and the team here for helping me to get my confidence back. I’m focusing more on pace than style or vigorous riding and I believe I’m riding better now than ever before. It helps when you’re on good horses, I’ve ridden winners for both the Dubai Sheikhs and some other big owners and I’m proud of that. Confidence makes all the difference!”
At 33, Warren’s been around long enough to earn senior status among his fellow-riders but he’d have more winners over seniority in the weighing room and said: “Most of the lads that went to the Academy with me have stopped riding due to injury, I think Gift Funeka’s about the only one from my apprentice years who is still around, but we’re some time behind Kevin Shea, Anthony Delpech, Sean Cormack and a few others. Kevin, for one, has enjoyed his best years well into his 30s and thereafter and there’s still no stopping him, his example is encouraging.”
Warren rode 89 winners in the 2009/10 season when he had a stint as stable jockey to Gavin Smith in Port Elizabeth, recording his career-best 10th place on the National Jockeys Table. Judged by what we’ve seen from the likable jockey this year there is reason to believe he’s a ‘late bloomer’ with the talent to be a Top 10 contender again if his current progress continues.