Colin Keane savouring Siskin opportunity in Sussex Stakes

Rider eager to team up with Classic hero at Goodwood.

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Colin Keane is counting down the days until he is reunited with Siskin in a mouthwatering renewal of the Qatar Sussex Stakes.

The Ger Lyons-trained colt won four times as a juvenile last season, with his top-level triumph in August’s Phoenix Stakes proving to be his final appearance after he reared up in the stalls and was withdrawn prior to the Middle Park at Newmarket.

With the coronavirus pandemic delaying his return, Siskin went straight into last month’s Irish 2,000 Guineas and stretched his unbeaten record to five with a dominant display – providing both his trainer and jockey with a first taste of Classic success.

Keane said: “It was brilliant to win the Irish Guineas. Earlier in the year there was a bit of a question mark for me about whether he’d stay the mile, but the more time he got and the closer we got to the race, the more confident we got.

“His work just got better and better, so we were pretty confident going into the race and it worked out great on the day.

“We know he definitely stays a mile now and it’s probably not out of the question he could stay further if we wanted him to. He’d give himself every chance as he settles very well and is a very relaxed horse to ride.”

Keane is well aware of the task facing Siskin at Goodwood, with Andrew Balding’s English Guineas hero Kameko, Marcus Tregoning’s runaway Summer Mile victor Mohaather and Aidan O’Brien’s multiple Group One winner Circus Maximus set to be in opposition.

“We’re very much looking forward to it. He got his little break after the Guineas and he’s been back training well since then. He’s in great nick and looks brilliant – we couldn’t be happier with him really,” said the jockey.

“I was looking at the entries the other night. We’ll have to see what Aidan decides to run, but the two English horses (Kameko and Mohaather) look very good. Whatever turns up, it’s going to be a very good race I expect.”

Keane’s decision to ride Siskin will come at a cost, with the current measures in place in Ireland to combat the outbreak of Covid-19 meaning he will need to spend two weeks in quarantine on his return home.

The leading rider admits missing a fortnight of action could put an end to his hopes of regaining the champion jockey title he won in 2017, but he feels the opportunity to maintain his partnership with Siskin is too good to pass up.

Keane said: “It’s not ideal, but I might not get to ride the likes of Siskin for another while. He’s definitely the best horse I’ve ridden and it’ll be worth it, I hope.

“Shane Foley is around 10 winners in front in the jockeys’ title race at the moment and there’s nothing between Wayne Lordan and myself in second and third.

“I won’t really think about that after the two weeks is up. I’ll just try to enjoy the rest of the year and whatever happens, happens.”

Keane could also be in action at Goodwood on Thursday to partner the Jessica Harrington-trained One Voice in the Qatar Nassau Stakes, which like the Sussex Stakes is part of the 2020 Qipco British Champions Series.

He added: “I’m coming over on Wednesday morning and I might stay for Thursday. If Mrs Harrington’s filly runs I think I’m going to ride her, so I’ll be home Thursday evening, all being well.”

Whatever the outcome on the Sussex Downs this week, it has already been a memorable campaign for Keane and Lyons, having last week doubled their Classic tally with Even So in the Irish Oaks.

“The year is going brilliantly. Even So winning the Irish Oaks was a bit of a surprise, but it was brilliant,” said Keane.

“Going there we were more hopeful of getting some black type than anything, so to go and win was amazing.

“The horses are in great nick and if they’re not winning they’re being placed. If they keep doing that they’ll all get their turn.”

While the Irish quarantine rules may hinder Keane’s title challenge, they have also worked in his favour in recent weeks as he has steered a couple of seriously smart British sprinters to success on Irish soil.

Tim Easterby’s Art Power impressed Keane in landing the Group Three Lacken Stakes at Naas at the start of the month, while the Simon and Ed Crisford-trained A’Ali also sparkled in Keane’s hands in last week’s Sapphire Stakes at the Curragh.

The pair look set to do battle in a Coolmore Nunthorpe at York next month that is also likely to feature the brilliant Battaash.

Keane said: “I’d say the two of them are going to be very smart sprinters this year and next year even. It was very nice to get on them.

“It’s hard to compare the two. Art Power was probably more impressive to look at, but I thought A’Ali was very good as well as they went very quick and he had an uphill battle from halfway – he did well to win, I thought.

“They have two different styles of racing, but the two of them are very good horses. I wouldn’t like to choose, to be honest.”

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