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A cracking card at Down Royal on Saturday was given extra spice after Gordon Elliott demanded Jack Kennedy and Davy Russell give up rides on Minella Indo and Envoi Allen for his horses.
Elliott insisted he needs “my jockeys” to keep his owners happy which means Kennedy, who steered Minella Indo to Cheltenham Gold Cup glory, will instead wear the Gigginstown House Stud colours after being declared on Delta Work for the Champion Chase, while Russell gets on Vado Forte in the Join Racing TV Chase.
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Henry De Bromhead, who took on the training of Gigginstown’s Envoi Allen after Elliott was handed a suspension earlier this year, has turned to stable jockey Rachael Blackmore to partner the hot favourites in the renewals.
Our main man Paddy Power and resident jockey-turned-pundit Ruby Walsh debated the drama on the latest episode of our From The Horse’s Mouth podcast, and the pair admitted it wasn’t exactly a shocking turn of events…
Paddy Power: “It’s the least surprising thing ever that Jack Kennedy’s not allowed to ride Minella Indo. It’s like Ruby Walsh saying to Willie Mullins he’s going to ride for another trainer at Cheltenham because of one horse. Gordon Elliott’s stable is so strong, of course Jack Kennedy is going to be there. It was clearly Gigginstown as well making the decision and they’re definitely not going to let their jockeys go up.
“The fact it was assumed Jack Kennedy would get off and ride suggests to me that Delta Work wouldn’t be one he was thinking would have a great chance. If Delta Work was second favourite it certainly wouldn’t have been a given that Jack Kennedy could ride the Gold Cup winner.
“It’s great news for Rachael Blackmore because I know the owners of Minella Indo would be loyal. It’s great news for her because she chose to ride A Plus Tard over Minella Indo and that lost her the Gold Cup-winning ride.”
Ruby Walsh: “You could see Gordon Elliott saying to his jockeys that he needs them but it read to me that it was sorted earlier in the week and then they changed their mind.
“It’s Gigginstown’s hobby and it’s Jack Kennedy’s life. For their hobby, they’re insisting that a guy gets off the horse that won the Gold Cup to ride their long shot. I can see both sides of it and I feel sorry for Jack Kennedy.
“I know how Rachael Blackmore felt when she thought she wasn’t riding Envoi Allen or Minella Indo. I can understand the pressures and emotions for both people. People often ask me if I miss riding, I don’t miss how either of them felt for the last two days or on Thursday morning one little bit.
“It read to me during the week that Davy Russell thought he was riding Envoi Allen and suddenly he’s not. I can imagine that was disappointing for him as well. It happens in racing. It’s brutal. I know how all three of those people have felt at various stages this week. I don’t miss that one bit.”
Paddy Power: “It’s much easier to keep the winning partnership together but the fact Henry De Bromhead’s got Rachael Blackmore – a stable jockey – solves an issue for him.”
Ruby Walsh: “It does and often you’re listening to people saying they want to keep the same jockey on the horse all the time to build up the continuity – but what happens when that one jockey gets hurt and you have to get someone else? People in National Hunt racing can often look too far down the line. For me, put the best jockey on today because tomorrow is promised to nobody and take each day as it comes.”
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