Ruby Walsh: You don’t have to bet in the bookies to be a gambler

How many of you could look at yourselves in the mirror this morning, like Jack Kennedy, and know you would push yourself to your physical limit just to get back to work?
Ruby Walsh: You don’t have to bet in the bookies to be a gambler

Envoi Allen and Jack Kennedy with Seainin Mahon after winning the Advanced Scaffolding Beginners Steeplechase at Down Royal. Picture: Healy Racing

On Thursday afternoon at Clonmel, Jack Kennedy returned to the track 18 days after breaking his collar bone in a fall at Limerick on Munster National day. 

He had no joy, as in a winner, but there was plenty of real joy for the young Dingle native in the fact that he was back again and could go to Down Royal yesterday to ride Envoi Allen, Queens Brook, Abacadabras, and Farouk D’alene. Four rides and two winners.

Some of you will wonder how he returned he so quickly, some of you will think, given all the injuries he has already had, it is crazy that he is returning at all. Some of you will be questioning how fixed his collar bone is and how fit he can really be.

More of you will have questioned Gordon Elliott’s decision to put him on such high-profile horses so soon after injury. But how many of you will have looked at it through Jack’s 21-year-old eyes? How many of you could look at yourselves in the mirror this morning and know you would push yourself to your physical limit just to get back to work?

Very few of you, I’d imagine, because the desire to partake that burns inside a sportsperson is very different to the one that drives everyone else on.

It is not reckless abandon, even if they may be risk averse, because they are not blind to danger. They have a different understanding of physical pain, although they feel it just like everyone else and are not immune to mental stress. They can just find a way to see the glass half full quicker than most.

What they do have in common with all successful people is the eye for an opportunity. When someone else in sport is out, the knives are sharpened by teammates or competitors for the opportunity, place or ride that has been left vacant.

I don’t know if Jack Kennedy uses social media, but he wouldn’t need to to have felt the gossip and chatter about his most recent injury: Why does he break so easily? Will he be back at all? Will Gordon stand by him? Who will he be replaced by? 

These thoughts will also have been all his own thoughts too in the last fortnight. It is the mental torment of injury felt by every sportsperson before they see the light of hope when they realise or see an opportunity they don’t want to let pass.

Drama in the Ladbrokes Handicap Chase at Down Royal yesterday as Benefit Run (Simon Torrens) runs out through the wing of a fence. Both were ok afterwards. 	Picture: Healy Racing
Drama in the Ladbrokes Handicap Chase at Down Royal yesterday as Benefit Run (Simon Torrens) runs out through the wing of a fence. Both were ok afterwards. Picture: Healy Racing

Down Royal in late October was always going to be that light for any jockey associated with Gordon Elliot’s yard, and yesterday showed why.

Davy Russell is out and won’t be back in the near future as not even Davy’s guile can shortcut a comeback from his injury. So, Jack spotted his opportunity to get himself into the hot seat on Envoi Allen and Queens Brooks and, with probably just the use of an arm and a half, he rolled the dice. You don’t have to bet in the bookies to be a gambler because some people’s lives and business are simply a bet every day. It’s risk versus reward.

I have seen people return quicker and have witnessed colleagues carry on with a broken collar bone, so what Jack did on Thursday is not a new phenomenon.

He just showed that physical and mental hardness that is required to succeed, just like a few more of his current colleagues have done.

So much for the millennial and snowflake generations because it is still the same in horse racing as it always was. Talent is required, but the grit that was always a necessity is still top of the list.

Today he will renew his partnership with Gold Cup hope Delta Work in the day’s highlight at Down Royal, the Ladbrokes Champion Chase. I don’t fancy him because of his tendency to require his first start of the season from a fitness point of view.

Galway’s great white hope, Presenting Percy, is now a Meath challenger having been rehomed in the summer but, being honest, it will be a watch-and-see day for Percy in my eyes as the nine-year-old has been on a steady decline since his RSA win 30 odd months ago. New home, new outlook and all that, but I’ll watch for today.

It is seven Meath runners versus two from Waterford, but this could well be Waterford’s only joy this weekend! Chris’s Dream runs well fresh and, with the ‘visiting’ Robbie Power making use of the Grade 1 Covid exemption rule to take the ride, he could spoil Gordon and Noel’s party and make Henry the king of the Deise if the hurlers bow down to Cork.

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