Colin Keane takes his place on world stage with Breeders’ Cup success

Ireland’s champion jockey was more than assured in guiding Tarnawa home at Keeneland

Colin Keane advertised his talents on the world stage in style at the Breeders' Cup on Saturday night when Ireland's champion jockey proved his international credentials on board Tarnawa.

Called up late as a replacement for Christophe Soumillon who'd tested positive for coronavirus, Keane was unflappable on Dermot Weld's star who led home Aidan O'Brien's Magical for an Irish 1-2 in the $4 million Turf.

Earlier O'Brien had broken his duck in the $2 million Mile with a remarkable 1-2-3 led home by the 73-1 outsider Order Of Australia. The unfortunate Soumillon had been due to ride Order Of Australia too.

Instead it was top French jockey Pierre Charles Boudot - who'd also had a successful 'spare' in the Filly & Mare Turf on Audarya - that did the steering in one of the biggest shock results in the Breeders' Cup's 37-year history.


Tarnawa’s victory was the most valuable of Keane’s career and a fourth Group 1 success this season for the 26-year-old rider.

He has also been successful at the highest level in 2020 on Siskin (Irish 2,000 Guineas,) Even So (Irish Oaks) and Champers Elysees in the Matron Stakes.

Prior to this year Keane had won Premio Lydia Tesio in Italy on Laganore in 2017 and last year’s Phoenix Stakes on Siskin.

With a second Irish jockey’s title already under his belt the Meath rider described a first Breeders’ Cup victory as “the icing on the cake for the year”.

There was a stark contrast to how Ballydoyle's number one jockey, Ryan Moore, endured frustration over the two days at Keeneland with four runner-up finishes.

Speculation that the Englishman’s six-year tenure at the most coveted job in racing may be under threat won’t have been eased by the assurance and adaptability Keane displayed in Keeneland.

Paddy Power, who last month went 1-6 about Keane replacing Moore at Ballydoyle in 2021, insisted on Sunday their view hasn't change despite not offering the market anymore.

“That’s because there wasn’t as much interest from a betting point of view as we had anticipated,” a spokesman said. “Sure, Colin was a short enough price but we didn’t lay many bets even on Ryan.”

Weld had only engaged Keane once before but on Sunday described him as an “outstanding young rider.”

The Curragh trainer, famed for decades as a pioneer of international racing, ended a losing streak of 16 runners at the Breeders' Cup.

"It feels exceptionally good. The Breeders' Cup was the one major event I wanted to win a big race at," said Weld who admitted the victory was tinged with sadness following the death in September of his old ally, Pat Smullen.

Outlining the sequence of events that led to Keane being on board Tarnawa, Weld added: “The decision was whether to go for an American rider or wait and get a European rider.

"Javier Castellano had ridden winners for me and was available. Frankie Dettori was riding in the race and I just thought why not go with Colin Keane?

“He was out there, he was riding the Mile beforehand and he’s an outstanding young rider.”


Tarnawa was cut to as short as 10-1 second-favourite for next year’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, a race she skipped last month in favour of the Prix de l’Opera. However no decision has been taken on whether or not she will race as a five-year-old or be retired to stud.

“His Highness (Aga Khan) has a history of retiring fillies at the end of their three- or four-year-old career so whether an exception will be made for her or not, I don’t know.

“She’s an amazing filly in that she won on very fast ground in America last night and she’s won on very heavy, testing ground a few weeks ago in Paris,” Weld said.

Order Of Australia was a 13th Breeders' Cup success for O'Brien who like Weld didn't make the trip to Kentucky.

Shane Foley was out of luck with his three Breeders' Cup mounts for Jessica Harrington and unlike Keane is quickly back in home action with half a dozen rides at Dundalk on Monday.

Kevin Manning has just the one for Jim Bolger only a couple of days after the veteran jockey passed a landmark figure when the 2020 turf season closed at Naas on Saturday.

Manning, 53, rode his 1,600th winner on Breaking News before making it 1,601 on Aiseirigh in the final race of the campaign.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column