New champion jockey Colin Keane reaches 100 winners at Naas
New champion rides double on final day of the flat season
Colin Keane at Naas celebrating his 100th winner of the year on board Warnaq. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Colin Keane put a perfect seal on his first champion jockey title by reaching 100 winners on the final day of the 2017 flat campaign at Naas on Sunday.
A double on two favourites Inscribe (11-8) and Warnaq (7-4) brought up Keane’s maiden century, and ultimately gave the 23-year-old a 12-winner margin over dethroned champion Pat Smullen.
Although flat racing’s public atmosphere can be low key, the reaction to Keane becoming only the seventh rider in the last 20 years to be crowned champion left even Cheltenham-style celebrations in the shade.
Several coaches of supporters from his home town of Trim created a football-like atmosphere around the parade ring.
Chants of “champione” and “Keano” mixed with a resounding series of three-cheers after Keane returned on his 99th winner of the season Inscribe, and the volume only increased as Warnaq brought up the century.
“That’s the icing on the cake,” said the 23-year-old rider. “I only accepted it [the championship] once it was mathematically impossible for Pat to catch me. Maybe the last month hasn’t been that enjoyable, but it’s been great overall.”
Keane was resolutely centre-stage, however, after a resounding season which included a first Group One success in Italy last weekend on the Tony Martin-trained Laganore.
However, it is Inscribe’s trainer Ger Lyons who has supplied the bulk of his winners, and Keane stressed: “I wouldn’t be in this position without Ger, plain and simple.”
Lyons, who enjoyed his own best numerical season with 72 winners and almost €1.7 million in prizemoney, putting him third in the trainers’ table, deflected all the credit to his jockey.
“It’s a huge achievement to be champion jockey in Ireland. To be champion, and not be part of one of the main teams, is huge. And I love the way he’s carried himself throughout,” said Lyons, who described Keane’s title win as the biggest moment of his own career.
As for the refreshingly exultant scenes around the parade ring, Lyons added: “It’s not normal for flat racing in Ireland, but it’s lovely to see. It’s usually a dull stroll to the end of the season, but flat racing needs this, to get fresh blood in.”
There was some consolation for Smullen as the nine-time champion brought the curtain down on the season by landing the Listed Finale Stakes on the unbeaten Tocco D’amore.
The €2 million yearling purchase had won her only previous start in April, and returned to action with a decisive success as a 7-4 favourite. Trainer Dermot Weld expects her to step up to Group level in 2018.
Sunday’s big money pot was the €100,000 November Handicap which saw the admirably consistent Swamp Fox get rewarded for some high profile placed efforts this season by keeping his nose in front of Highland Fling at the line.
Swamp Fox is a durable dual-purpose performer, and the shifting of the seasons was evident after Still Standing led home a 1-2 for Jessica Harrington in the juvenile maiden.
“It’s better than yesterday!” quipped the trainer in reference to Our Duke’s Down Royal eclipse the previous day.
“Our Duke is sound. He scoped wrong. They took some bloods from him this morning and we’ll take it from there. I’m scratching my head. He was gone after the first fence.”