Mick Kinane, aged 50, announced his retirement on Tuesday 8 December 2009. Horse Racing Ireland pays tribute to the top-class jockey:

The Makings of A Champion

The son of Tommy Kinane, a leading National Hunt jockey who gained fame for his win on Monksfield in the Champion Hurdle, Michael Kinane rode his first winner on his very first public mount in 1975 and from the very start he looked destined to become a top-class jockey. Apprenticed to the renowned nurturer of young talent Liam Browne for several years, he served his time with other well-known jockeys like Stephen Craine, Mark Dwyer and Tommy Carmody.

Having quickly risen through the apprentice ranks to be recognised as a top-class talent, Kinane gained the first of his 14 Irish Classic wins in the Irish 2000 Guineas at the Curragh on the Liam Browne-trained Dara Monarch in 1982. In late-1983 he got the job as first jockey to the powerful Dermot Weld stable and formed an association with the Master of Rosewell House that was to be an amazing success for the next fourteen years. Weld and Kinane teamed up to win major races in every corner of the globe and Kinane was Irish Champion Jockey on no less than ten occasions from 1984 to 1994, with Christy Roche in 1990 being the only other jockey to take his crown in those years.

A second Irish 2000 Guineas followed in 1986 on Weld’s Flash Of Steel, while Trusted Partner became his first Irish 1000 Guineas winner in 1988. The first weekend in October of the next year (1989) was probably the weekend that turned Kinane from being a top-class Irish jockey to being a top-class international jockey as a fantastic double aboard the Dermot Weld-trained The Caretaker in the Cartier Million at the Phoenix Park on the Saturday was followed by a magnificent win on the Michael Jarvis-trained Carroll House in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp on the Sunday and suddenly, Mick Kinane was the man that most trainers wanted in the big races.

While continuing to ride for Dermot Weld, he was required more and more by English trainers and he partnered the Richard Hannon-trained Tirol to victory in the English 2000 Guineas in 1990. Later that summer, he gave the Henry Cecil-trained Belmez a brilliant ride to defeat stable companion Old Vic in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Ascot, while in June he enjoyed a notable success aboard the Dermot Weld-trained Go And Go in the Belmont Stakes in America, becoming the first and only European-trained horse to win a leg of the American Triple Crown.

At the end of 1992, Kinane was offered the job of retained jockey to the most powerful owner in the world, Sheikh Mohammed, but after serious consideration he turned down the offer citing family reasons and his way of life in Ireland as two main factors in his decision to stay. In 1993, Kinane rode for Henry Cecil in some of the bigger races and they combined to win the Epsom Derby with Commander In Chief in June, while the following month he was aboard Michael Stoute’s Opera House when winning the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown.

The decision to stay with the Dermot Weld stable was vindicated when he rode Vintage Crop to win the 1993 Irish St Leger at the Curragh and later that year, he partnered the same horse to a record breaking and memorable victory in the Melbourne Cup in Australia. Kinane enjoyed more big-race success in 1994 when Kings Theatre gave him another victory in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Ascot, while later that year he partnered the Dermot Weld-trained Definite Article to victory in the National Stakes at the Curragh before guiding Vintage Crop to a second Iris h St Leger later that month. In 1997 Kinane rode another English 2000 Guineas winner in the shape of the Michael Stoute-trained Entrepreneur, while in 1998 his victory aboard the Dermot Weld trained Mus-If in the National Stakes at the Curragh proved to be the last big-race victory for the trainer-rider combination as Kinane accepted the job of first jockey to the Aidan O’Brien stable soon after that.

Having ridden the O’Brien-trained King Of Kings to win the English 2000 Guineas at Newmarket earlier in the year, the prospect of riding for the powerful Coolmore operation was too hard to resist for Kinane and while 1999 did not bring immediate Classic success for Kinane, his association with the brilliant French-trained Montjeu brought him a second Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe success in October. The year 2000 will always be remembered for the exploits of the O’Brien-trained Giant’s Causeway and while Kinane finished runner-up on him in both the English and Irish 2000 Guineas, the pair later combined to win four Group 1’s starting with the St James’ Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot and finishing with the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown. In between those victories they landed the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood and the Juddmonte International Stakes at York and the year ended with an agonising defeat in the Breeders Cup Classic at the hands of the brilliant Tiznow.

While 2000 was a more than satisfactory year for Kinane, 2001 proved to be simply amazing as the Aidan O’Brien stable annexed no fewer than 23 Group 1 races with Kinane riding the majority of them. The brilliant Galileo gave Kinane his second Epsom Derby triumph when recording a superb victory over English 2000 Guineas winner Golan, while just three weeks later, Kinane finally broke his Irish Derby jinx when riding the same horse to an easy four length win. Galileo and Kinane went on to land the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Ascot before the pair were eclipsed by Frankie Dettori and Fantastic Light in what was the race of the year in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown.

The following season his association with Rock Of Gibraltar brought him another Irish 2000 Guineas success, as well as the St James Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood and the Prix Du Moulin at Longchamp. All told, Kinane’s tenure as first jockey to Aidan O’Brien for five years brought no less than 58 Group or Grade 1 wins, but the arrangement ended in late-2003 and trainer John Oxx was quick to snap up Kinane’s services.

Kinane’s association with the Oxx yard started off on a good note, with the likes of Azamour providing him with victories in the St James Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown in 2004 and the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at York and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes in 2005. The 2006 Flat Season was another good one for Kinane, as he ended the year with a total of 52 domestic victories highlighted by the excellent victory of Kastoria in the Irish Field St Leger at the Curragh in September. With the unique jockey situation that transpired at Ballydoyle at the time due to the ban of Kieren Fallon in England, Kinane found himself coming in for a number of excellent spare rides, resulting in wins on Alexandrova in the Yorkshire Oaks and George Washington in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. That trend continued into 2007, generating further big-race wins on Yeats in the Ascot Gold Cup and on Scorpion in the Coronation Cup.

While John Oxx had drew a Group 1 blank in 2007 and 2008, at the beginning of 2009 he looked to have a formidable team of three-year-olds to go to war with and Kinane struck gold with the pick of them, Sea The Stars. The exceptionally well-bred colt made a winning start to the season in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, but that would prove to be just the tip of the iceberg, as during the course of the season Sea The Stars would prove himself to be one of the all-time greats. The son of Cape Cross profited from a typically-cool Kinane ride to step up in trip to win the Epsom Derby, before dropping back to 10f to complete a remarkable Group 1 treble in the Coral-Eclipse Stakes at Sandown, the Juddmonte International at York and the Irish Champion Stakes on a memorable day at Leopardstown. Many felt the horse had already done enough to secure his legacy as one of the greats, but Oxx had one last assignment in mind for him, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in October. Despite his mount racing much more freely than ideal and finding himself behind a wall of horses after a few furlongs, Kinane somehow engineered an escape route and Sea The Stars grasped the opportunity, quickening up in immensely impressive fashion to lead just over 1f out and power to a two lengths victory that oozed brilliance. After the race, Kinane proudly held an Irish Tricolour over his head in what could well prove to be the defining image of Flat racing for decades to come. The colt of a lifetime, trained by one of racing’s most admired gentlemen and ridden by the wily master of his trade at the peak of his powers.

As if having Sea The Stars wasn’t enough, Kinane and Oxx combined with another star performer in 2009, with Alandi proving himself to be one of the top stayers in Europe. The four-year-old gave Oxx his fourth win in the Irish St Leger at the Curragh, before putting an almighty cherry on top of their day at Longchamp on Arc day when winning the Group 1 Prix du Cadran. Seeing as 2009 was dominated by Sea the Stars, it was perhaps fitting that his last winner as a jockey came in those familiar yellow and purple silks on Nebula Storm in a 2-year old maiden on the 5th November in Leopardstown.

After Sea The Stars’ triumph at Longchamp, Kinane was asked about his future plans, but remained tight-lipped. No doubt he didn’t wish for any attention to be drawn from such a mighty performance from the colt that had given him the perfect vehicle to ride out his own remarkable career on. Then, a few weeks after Sea The Stars himself had been retired, Kinane followed the mighty colt down the road to an easier life away from the racecourse. However, there is little doubt that this will be the last the racing public see or hear from Mick Kinane. Already the part-breeder of an Epsom Derby winner in Authorized in 2007, whichever path the wily 50-year-old chooses to go down during his retirement, one can rest assured that he will enjoy the world of success, just as he did in the saddle for over 30 years.

Brian Kavanagh, Chief Executive of Horse Racing Ireland gave a tribute to Michael saying: “Michael is without doubt the best jockey that this country has produced. His record of big race wins speaks for itself as does his loyalty and long service to his employers during his career.

“Michael changed the way in which Irish riders, and indeed Irish racing, were perceived worldwide and showed that Irish riders can more than hold their own internationally. He paved the way for a generation of Irish jockeys and acts as a wonderful role model for any young apprentice starting out. Professionalism and dedication, allied to a natural modesty, were his trademarks and throughout his career he was the man with the nerve and talent for the biggest occasion.

“He was a particular favourite of Irish racegoers and punters who will remember his ice cool rides in all the major international races, but also his ability to light up the local circuit – a number of his rides at the Galway Festival spring to mind.

“Not content with riding big race winners, he also took time out to breed the winner of the 2007 Epsom Derby winner Authorised. I wish Michael, Catherine and his family a long and happy retirement and am delighted to see him bow out at the top of the tree.“

Principal Trainers: John Oxx, Aidan O’Brien, Dermot Weld & Liam Browne

Notable Wins: Prix du Cadran (Alandi 2009), Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Sea The Stars 2009, Montjeu 1999, Carroll House 1989), Irish St. Leger (Alandi 2009, Kastoria 2006, Vintage Crop 1994 + 1993), Irish Champion Stakes (Sea The Stars 2009, Azamour 2004, High Chaparral 2003, Giant’s Causeway 2000, Pilsudski 1997, Cezanne 1994, Carroll House 1989), Juddmonte International Stakes (Sea The Stars 2009, Electrocutionist 2005, Giant’s Causeway 2000), Eclipse Stakes (Sea The Stars 2009, Hawk Wing 2002, Opera House 1993, Pilsudski 1997), Epsom Derby (Sea The Stars 2009, Galileo 2001, Commander in Chief 1993), Newmarket 2,000 Guineas (Sea the Stars 2009, King of Kings 1998, Entrepreneur 1997, Tirol 1990), Goffs Fillies Million (Minor Vamp 2008), Ascot Gold Cup (Yeats 2007, Kayf Tara 2000, Classic Cliche 1996), Coronation Cup (Scorpion 2007), Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (George Washington 2006), Yorkshire Oaks (Alexandrova 2006), Sussex Stakes (Proclamation 2005, Rock of Gibraltar 2002, Giant’s Causeway 2000, Among Men 1998), King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Azamour 2005, Galileo 2001, Montjeu 2000, King’s Theatre 1994, Belmez 1990), Prince of Wales’s Stakes (Azamour 2005, Lear Spear 1999), Golden Jubilee Stakes (Cape of Good Hope 2005, Big Shuffle 1987), Irish 1,000 Guineas (Saoire 2005, Yesterday 2003, Trusted Partner 1988), St. James’s Palace Stakes (Azamour 2004, Rock of Gibraltar 2002, Giant’s Causeway 2000, Grand Lodge 1994, Brief Truce 1992, Dara Monarch 1982), Breeders’ Cup Turf (High Chaparral 2003 + 2002), National Stakes (One Cool Cat 2003, Hawk Wing 2001, Mus-If 1998, Definite Article 1994), Moyglare Stud Stakes (Necklace 2003, Quarter Moon 2001, Flutter Away 1987), Phoenix Stakes (One Cool Cat 2003, Johannesburg 2001, Minardi 2000, Fasliyev 1999, King Persian 1983), Lockinge Stakes (Hawk Wing 2003), Tattersalls Gold Cup (Black Sam Bellamy 2003, Montjeu 2000, Dance Design 1997, Definite Article 1996, Prince of Andros 1995, Cockney Lass 1987), Canadian International (Ballingarry 2002), Irish Derby (High Chaparral 2002, Galileo 2001), Coronation Stakes (Sophisticat 2002, Kissing Cousin 1994), Irish 2,000 Guineas (Rock of Gibraltar 2002, Flash of Steel 1986, Dara Monarch 1982), Poule d’Essai des Poulains (Landseer 2002), Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (Johannesburg 2001), Dewhurst Stakes (Rock of Gibraltar 2001), English St. Leger Stakes (Milan 2001), Middle Park Stakes (Johannesburg 2001, Minardi (2000), Nunthorpe Stakes (Mozart 2001, Stravinsky 1999), July Cup (Mozart 2001, Stravinsky 1999), Epsom Oaks (Imagine (2001, Shahtoush 1998), Poule d’Essai des Pouliches (Rose Gypsy 2001), Secretariat Stakes (Ciro 2000), Fillies’ Mile (Sunspangled 1998, Reams of Verse 1996), Japan Cup (Pilsudski 1997), Racing Post Trophy (Saratoga Springs 1997), English Champion Stakes (Pilsudski 1997), Matron Stakes (Clerio 1997, Eternal Reve 1994), Pretty Polly Stakes (Dance Design 1997 + 1996, Market Booster 1992), Irish Oaks (Dance Design 1996, Alydaress 1989), Queen Anne Stakes (Charnwood Forest 1996, Barathea 1994, Alflora 1993), Melbourne Cup (Vintage Crop 1993), Belmont Stakes (Go and Go 1990), Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp (Committed 1985).

What to read next on Eclipse Magazine