Mick Kinane has been announced as Horse Racing Ireland’s Flat Racing Ambassador for 2010. During a brilliant riding career that spanned 35 years, Mick Kinane established himself as Irish racing’s most decorated Flat jockey before retiring last December.
Following a truly memorable association with John Oxx’s champion racehorse Sea The Stars, the 50-year-old Co Tipperary-born rider exited amidst a blaze of glory that was only fitting for someone who had contributed so much to the elevation of Irish Flat racing to its current world-class status.
In 2009, the Sea The Stars team achieved glorious success during a six-race unbeaten run that included famous victories in the 2,000 Guineas, the Epsom Derby, the Irish Champion Stakes and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. Mick Kinane’s role in securing such an unprecedented legacy was incalculable, his cool and experienced hand stamped all over each of those memorable occasions.
This trademark big-race calm defined Kinane throughout his long reign as one of the most sought after names on the international stage. The only jockey who can claim wins in all the major European Group Ones as well as in the Belmont Stakes, the Breeders’ Cup, the Japan Cup, the Hong Kong Cup and the Melbourne Cup, he is an instantly recognisable and universally respected figure.
While no one could have predicted such a lifetime of remarkable achievement, as a son of the Champion Hurdle-winning jump jockey Tommy, Mick was always destined for life in the saddle. He learnt his trade under Liam Browne on the Curragh, rode his first winner at the age of 15 at Leopardstown in 1975, and would become Champion Apprentice three years later.
An incredible haul of 13 Irish jockeys’ championships followed, while Kinane’s early partnership with Dermot Weld was the first of three groundbreaking affiliations with Irish trainers. In 1985, he rode his initial European Group One winner on Committed for Weld in France, a triumph that propelled him into racing’s wider consciousness.
Over the course of the next 15 years, Kinane would confirm his supremacy as the world’s number one Flat jockey, his services frequently called upon by renowned international trainers such as Henry Cecil, Michael Stoute, Michael Jarvis and Andre Fabre.
Throughout that time, his partnership with Weld continued to excel, their success in the 1993 Melbourne Cup with Vintage Crop the undoubted highlight. Kinane’s determined drive through the rain-soaked Flemington mud to plunder a first northern hemisphere success in the ‘race that stops a nation’ remains one of Irish sporting history’s single most unlikely feats, one that catapulted racing – and Ireland – into mainstream media.
Eventually, almost inevitably, Kinane joined forces with another powerhouse of Irish racing. As Aidan O’Brien sought to enhance Ballydoyle’s standing as the most dominant of international training centres in 1998, there was simply no one better qualified for the job of stable jockey.
Finally, after six dominant years with O’Brien, Kinane began the third and final chapter of his sensational career with John Oxx. Sea The Stars’ awe-inspiring 2009 campaign ensured that he bowed out in flawless style, and it is appropriate now that this most humble of men will formally act as ambassador for the sport to which he has devoted his life – find out more. In so many ways, it is a role that Mick Kinane has been fulfilling for as long as anyone can remember.
QUICK Q&A WITH MICK KINANE
How well have you adapted to life out of the saddle?
Very well. Obviously I’m not going racing every day anymore and I do miss the camaraderie in the weighing room, but I don’t miss the day-to-day grind of riding. I’m riding work a couple of days a week at John Oxx’s to keep fit and I have my farm at home, so I’m kept busy.
Looking back, would you change anything about your riding career?
No. I’ve never been one to look back. You make your decisions and move on.
What horse are you looking forward to watching this year?
Fame And Glory. It was good to see him bounce back at Leopardstown and he should have an exciting four-year-old campaign.
Favourite non-racing pastime?
I find boating and fishing very relaxing.
Favourite fishing spot?
What has been your biggest catch?
I’m only getting the hang of it – they haven’t been that big!
Favourite spectator sport outside of racing?
I enjoy most ball sports, especially hurling and football. Hopefully I will have time to get to a few more of Tipperary’s hurling matches this year.
Can Tipperary win this year’s All-Ireland?
They were very close last year, so they don’t have to get much better. If they can improve as much as they did from the year before to last year, they have a great chance.
Will you watch the Champions’ League Final?
Who do you fancy, Inter Milan or Bayern Munich?
I have a funny feeling about Bayern. It’s going to be very hard to beat Inter, but I think Bayern have a bit of pedigree and are very hardy. It’s going to be fascinating.
Favourite soccer team?
Who will win the World Cup?
The Bucket List.
If you hadn’t been a jockey, what would you have been?
Hard to imagine anything else because I never had to give it any thought. I was lucky enough to live the dream.
Best non-racing moment?
Getting married – once I got used to it!
Are you afraid of anything?
I’m not a very strong swimmer so I had a bit of a fear of deep water, but I did have a go at deep-sea diving so it’s something that I’ve faced up to.
Did you have a hero growing up?
My Dad was very influential and I always looked up to Lester Piggott.
Best piece of advice you ever received?
Believe in yourself, which isn’t always easy in sport.
MICK KINANE – FAST FACTS
- Born: 22 June, 1959
- Height: 5ft 4in
- Family: Married to Catherine with two daughters, Aisling and Sinead
- First winner: Musicari, Leopardstown, March 19, 1975
- Champion Apprentice: 1978
- Champion Jockey: 13 times up to 2003
Major Group One winners:
- Irish Derby: Galileo, High Chaparral
- Irish Oaks: Alydaress, Dance Design
- Irish 2,000 Guineas: Dara Monarch, Flash Of Steel, Rock Of Gibraltar
- Irish 1,000 Guineas: Trusted Partner, Yesterday, Saoire
- Irish St Leger: Vintage Crop (twice), Kastoria, Alandi
- Irish Champion Stakes: Carroll House, Cezanne, Pilsudski, Giant’s Causeway, High Chaparral, Azamour, Sea The Stars
- Epsom Derby: Commander In Chief, Galileo, Sea The Stars
- Epsom Oaks: Shahtoush, Imagine
- 2,000 Guineas: Tirol, Entrepreneur, King Of Kings, Sea The Stars
- St Leger: Milan
- King George Stakes: Belmez, King’s Theatre, Montjeu, Galileo, Azamour
- Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe: Carroll House, Montjeu, Sea The Stars
- Belmont Stakes: Go And Go
- Breeders Cup winners: Johannesburg, High Chaparral (twice),
- Hong Kong Cup: Precision
- Japan Cup: Pilsudski
- Melbourne Cup: Vintage Crop
Pictures by Christopher in Fennel Photography on 01 6689766 or 0863847375