Accidental Agent

In his penultimate update, former agent Hugh Taylor looks back on a stellar season for Kerrin McEvoy in 2007, where the ace Aussie rider was regularly tasting big-race success at the major festivals, culminating in more Group 1 glory at Doncaster.

  • Thursday 23 April
  • Blog
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By Hugh Taylor

The precarious and dangerous nature of being a jockey was something I was never able to forget, including when Kerrin was back riding in Australia during our winter.

In 2005 he had suffered facial injuries that required cosmetic surgery after a bad fall at Flemington, and a year later at the same track he endured even worse injuries, including bleeding on the brain. Remarkably, though, he was back in the saddle by January.

Meanwhile, at the start of the season in England, Ryan Moore suffered a broken arm in a fall on the all-weather in mid-March. This was really bad luck for Moore, who had landed his first Championship the previous season and went on to run away with the title in 2008 and 2009.

It did mean there was going to be an obvious vacancy with Sir Michael Stoute’s horses during the early stage of the season, however. Kerrin’s return to England had traditionally coincided with the Guineas meeting – Godolphin barely ever had a runner before then in this country – but after chatting with Kerrin, we made him available from the Craven meeting onwards and Stoute responded positively to the offer.

I think this heralded the most exciting time of Kerrin’s stay in England, certainly from my point of view. There’s something special about the atmosphere in Newmarket in Craven week, and this was a great time to be his agent. We had six plum rides booked on both days of the meeting within hours of the entries being published, with seven of the twelve runners representing the Stoute team.

On day one Kerrin also linked up with John Dunlop’s smart filly Scarlet Runner again. She looked to face a stiff task against 4-7 favourite Sander Camillo, ridden by Frankie Dettori, but we were drawn against the far rail and it again gave us an opportunity to exploit what we perceived to be a strong bias towards that rail.

It worked like a dream – only the eventual third, who was rated just 95, followed Kerrin up the rail, and he held off Sander Camillo by a neck. She never really ran to that level again, but that was an extremely satisfying win for Kerrin.

Scarlet Runner
Scarlet Runner hugs the far rail at Newmarket to thwart odds-on favourite Sander Camillo

He won one of the maidens for Stoute the same day, and the following day steered Adagio to a comfortable win in the Craven.

These were heady days indeed, and caused some over-reactions in some quarters. I remember some journalists asking me if Kerrin was likely to be in line to switch from Godolphin to Stoute, which was extremely far-fetched – although Ryan Moore wasn’t Stoute’s retained jockey at the time, he was always going to be his number one choice again on his return from injury, and indeed he became the stable jockey from the following season.

Moreover, Kerrin was in no way unhappy with his situation at Godolphin. He would still pick up a steady flow of good rides for Saeed Bin Suroor as the season progressed, but had plenty of options elsewhere when he wasn’t required.

In this respect, Simon Crisford was tremendously understanding. When you’re racing manager to a global operation such as Godolphin, it must have been immensely irritating to have the agent of your number two jockey pestering you on the phone to find if you were running a horse in a northern maiden in five days’ time.

Simon was not only very patient with me though, but also extremely helpful and proactive; frequently, if he wasn’t sure whether Kerrin would be needed by Godolphin when making entries, he would tell me to kick on and take rides I was being offered elsewhere. This was important for us, as although we were getting the pick of the rides from the Stoute team at this stage, the trainer understandably liked a degree of certainty when making bookings.

Adagio started favourite for the 2000 Guineas on the back of his Craven win, but ran disappointingly both there and on his two subsequent outings. However, there was compensation the same day when Kerrin won the Group Three Dahlia Stakes on Echelon, as well as a Listed race for David Elsworth.

Echelon
Echelon wins the Dahlia Stakes at Newmarket

The next couple of months were amongst my most enjoyable times as an agent. I usually knew well in advance where Kerrin was going – the Stoute team, as you’d imagine, were well organised – and was able to pick up plenty of good spare rides. There was the odd disappointment – Peeress ran poorly when a hot favourite for the Lockinge on what turned out to be her final racecourse appearance, for instance – but generally things were going well.

Stoute didn’t have a Derby horse that year, and Ryan Moore returned to the saddle in early June, which did mean that gradually we started to lose a lot of the plum rides that had been coming Kerrin’s way. However, we still received plenty of call-ups from the stable, including seven at Royal Ascot, Heaven Sent going closest when runner-up in the Wolferton Handicap.

Kerrin had a rare enforced absence in mid-July, after he was suspended for 3 days for using his whip with excessive frequency on a John Dunlop-trained stayer at Warwick. From memory, this was the only whip ban he picked up in the whole of his five years in England, and his only other suspensions were a couple of one-day ones for minor interference.

He was soon back riding winners, however, with a couple of notable ones for Peter Chapple-Hyam. Tariq was really Jimmy Fortune’s ride, but he was required for John Gosden’s Royal Oath in the Group Two Lennox Stakes at Glorious Goodwood, and Kerrin took full advantage to win smoothly.

Tariq
Tariq wins comfortably at Glorious Goodwood

Kerrin’s win on Chapple-Hyam’s Al Qasi in a Group Three sprint at the Curragh in August again owed much to Simon Crisford’s generosity; Godolphin had a runner in a maiden at Wolverhampton on the same day, but Simon gave his blessing for Kerrin to go to Ireland and continue his association with the smart sprinter.

Later that month one of Kerrin’s most emotional winners came not at one of the big tracks, but at Bath. Pintle was a filly that Kerrin had been closely associated throughout his time in the UK, and was the horse he rode most frequently (18 times in total) by some way. The pair had sprung a 50-1 surprise at Sandown in June off a mark of 50, but was beaten out of sight in a hot class 2 handicap at Goodwood next time, and we both thought she had probably reached her limit.

The heavy rain that fell at Bath that day wasn’t expected to be in her favour and she was sent off as the rank outsider, but led in the final furlong and won by three quarters of a length. Kerrin said he’d never been so delighted to ride a Listed winner, and it must have been a very satisfying moment for veteran trainer John Spearing, who had always waited until the last minute to see if Kerrin was available before running her.

Kerrin continued to clock up the winners, including three in the space of four weeks on talented sprint handicapper Matsunosuke for “Scobie” Coogan, whilst he also landed a pair of Group Three events at Newmarket on Cambridgeshire day.

He was allowed by Simon to return to Australia a little earlier than planned to partner Purple Moon in the Caulfield Cup for Luca Cumani in late October. However, when Dettori headed off for the Breeders’ Cup the following weekend, Kerrin was asked to fly back to ride Ibn Khaldun in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster, and on his final day of the season, Kerrin finally notched his first Group One win of the year, in command throughout the final furlong.

His closing tally of 95 winners, along with his 18% strike rate, stood up very well in comparison with many of the other top jockeys that year, and he was the only jockey in the top 10 in the championship table to show a level stakes profit.

The phones had been ringing regularly all year, which was a good thing, but occasionally there was an unwanted call. Agents’ numbers were published in the Directory Of The Turf, as well as on the BHA Racing Administration website, and probably elsewhere too, which meant it wasn’t just owners and trainers who could contact you.

One night I was in bed sleeping at around 1am when I heard my land line downstairs ringing. On the basis that phone calls at 1am are rarely good news, I rushed down to answer it. It was a bit of a struggle at first to understand the nature of the message I received, as the caller had a strong regional accent and appeared to have prepared for the call by drinking for several hours, but he had clearly decided that I needed the benefit of his thoughts on my jockey’s performance in the saddle that afternoon without further delay.

When I started working for Kerrin Godolphin had set me up with a mobile phone to use as part of my job. I don’t think anybody realised at the time that this was a recycled phone rather than newly-issued to me, and for three or four years I would receive calls that invariably started with the words “Hi, Trevor…”. I never did find out who Trevor was – presumably he had held some role at Godolphin or Darley – but it took four or five years before people twigged that this was no longer his number and the calls stopped.

Accidental Agent
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