The life of a National Hunt jockey was summed up perfectly by the fortunes of Jack Kennedy who, less than 24 hours after winning a Grade One race in America, was dumped unceremoniously to the turf in the first race at Ballinrobe on Friday.
Kennedy had ridden Zanjabeel to win the Lonesome Glory Handicap Hurdle, in which Gordon Elliott’s Galway Plate winner Clarcam finished sixth, at Belmont Park, before jumping on a flight back across the Atlantic.
He was at Ballinrobe in plenty of time to team up with Elliott on Flat To The Max, sent off the 11-10 favourite on his jumping debut in the Jimmy Beef 3-Y-O Maiden Hurdle – but only got as far as the first flight.
The race was won in good style by Brendan Duke’s Chica Buena (6-1).
“She’s improving all the time and loves what she’s doing,” said Duke of his six-length scorer.
“She loves this racing game and she’s improving – she definitely is.
”We’ll run away through the winter and hopefully she’ll be able to win again.
”She’ll stay rated 49 on the level for the minute, she’s really enjoying this and I’m a great believer if they are enjoying doing something in sticking with it.
“There’s no real plan – you’re always thinking faraway fields in the spring or Punchestown the same time.
”You’re always hoping, but quite honestly I didn’t think early on that she was that good. She’s improving so much, though, and enjoying herself so much that we’ll dream a bit more through the winter anyway.”
The Willie Mullins-trained Dont Hesitate justified cramped odds of 2-11 in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Maiden Hurdle.
Paul Townend bounced her out in front and never saw another rival, coasting home 10 lengths clear of Light Of My Life.
“She was green in front – it was hard for her with no company. When the horse joined her, she took on that hurdle very well for me,” said Townend of the former Francois Doumen inmate.
“Unfortunately that one fell then and it was hard for her first day at school, going out on her own like that, but we learned very little about her today. I imagine she’ll keep going for the winter.”
Townend quickly followed up on Grand Canyon (4-1) for Amanda Mooney, who registered her first National Hunt winner in the John Rochford Memorial Handicap Hurdle.
“We didn’t go quick. I actually rode him last year and I liked him and I thought there was a day in him,” said Townend.
“She’s got his wind done and it seems to have done the trick.”
Townend made it a treble and Mullins a double when 4-7 favourite Montalbano got the better of the Andrew Lynch-ridden Velocity Boy in the J.J. Burke’s Peugeot Chase
“Andrew’s horse hadn’t run in a while and he probably had a softish lead,” said Townend.
“I was hoping down to the third-last that I had him covered.
“I had to go around him alight – you don’t go up Lynchie’s inner too easy!”
Mullins bagged his own treble when racecourse newcomer Mt Leinster (9-10 favourite) ran right away with the bumper in the hands of the trainer’s son, Patrick.
The rider said: “We’ve been keeping that name for a good horse. It’s the mountain overlooking our yard.
“He’s a half-brother to Blackstairmountain. My mother bred him – so she deserves a lot of credit.
“That’s what he’s been doing at home. He’s a horse with a lot of gears and a lot of ability.
“He jumps well as well – he jumped all the roads there!”