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Mick Kinane Announces Retirement

By Tom Krish | 08 Dec 2009 |

Jockey Mick Kinane

He had won the 2008 Indian Derby with the S S Shah-trained Hotstepper. I walked up to Mick Kinane who was waiting for the trophy presentation. “Congratulations,” I said. “Thank you,” he responded. I knew he was 49. “You are winning all these big races around the world. Have you thought about how much longer you want to be in the saddle?”

“I do not know. Yes, I think about giving up now and then. I love what I am doing and I am fit enough to do it,” the incomparable Kinane said. It was the first Sunday in February.

In June 2008, I was in the paddock area at Royal Ascot. I bumped into Tommy Kinane, the patriarch of the Kinane clan. Tommy, a retired jumps jockey, spoke about his son. He talked about India. My last question for Tommy was Mick’s possible retirement. “I’ll let you in on this. Mick will stop riding end of this year. I hope he does not have one next year that will make him have second thoughts,” Tom Kinane quipped. A year and a half later, I am fully aware of the wisdom of father Kinane’s words. I can see what Sea The Stars did to Mick Kinane’s career and helped the Irish riding maestro call it quits when the sun was shining at its brightest.

The news came on Tuesday, December 8, 2009. Jockey Mick Kinane, 50, after 34 years of riding and holding the Irish flag aloft around the world, has announced his retirement. “I have decided this is the right time to retire from race riding. At 50, I still feel fit and sharp enough to do any horse justice, but after the season I have just had in partnership with Sea The Stars, I have the privilege of being able to end my career on an incredible high and that’s what I want to do,” Kinane said.

Kinane went on. “The most important support has come, naturally, from Catherine, my wife, along with my family and friends. Both Catherine and our two precious daughters, Sinead and Aisling, know how much they mean to me. I’ll just be a small-time farmer from next week. I have no great plans so I am going to spend some time with my wife and family and take stock.”

With 1,500 winners in his bag, jockey Kinane was the Champion Irish apprentice in 1978. Dermot Weld took Kinane under his wings in 1984. Go And Go, a Weld trainee, won the 1990 Belmont Stakes with Mick Kinane. In 1993, Kinane rode the Weld-trained Vintage Crop to victory in the Melbourne Cup.

Ballydoyle was Kinane’s home from 2000 to 2004. John Oxx was the trainer for whom Kinane rode primarily from 2004 until retirement.

Trainer Oxx, who trained Sea The Stars, paid tribute. “Mick Kinane was just the complete professional in every way. He was a top jockey with great skill and determination. He always conducted himself perfectly. He had a great work ethic and never let anybody down.”

On December 7, Kinane was named the top flat jockey of the year in England by the Horse Racewriters’ and Photographers’ Association. Kinane won six Group I races with Sea The Stars. The incredible run culminated in the Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in early October. I had the privilege of seeing Kinane win with Sea The Stars in the Epsom Derby and in the Longchamp showpiece.

Kinane was Irish champion jockey six times. Authorized, the 2007 Epsom Derby winner, was bred by Kinane. In England, jockey Kinane won the 2000 Guineas four times. He won the Epsom Derby three times. He was successful in the Epsom Oaks twice. He won the St Leger at Doncaster once.

In Ireland, Kinane won 14 Classics. He won the Irish Champion Stakes seven times. He had three winners in the Arc. He won the Belmont Stakes, the last leg in the American Triple Crown, once. He won the Melbourne Cup, the race that stops a nation, once. He won three Breeders’ Cup races.

I remember Kinane winning the 2008 Indian Derby with Hotstepper. He won the Calcutta 1000 Guineas with Wheels. If my memory serves me right, Kinane won another Derby in Mumbai. I do not, however, remember the horse’s name. Kinane rode in India when he was in his twenties. Please send a posting to Indiarace if you know an interesting fact about Kinane.

Tributes from English trainers and jockeys are pouring in. Trainer Dermot Weld lavished praise on Kinane. John Murtagh and Pat Smullen have paid tribute.

Paddy Power reacted. The precocious and boyish-looking Fran Berry will take over the mantle at John Oxx’s yard. Berry was made the even money favourite to win the Irish riding title in 2010.

I distinctly remember jockey Kinane’s response to a question in the post-Derby conference in June 2009. “Why would I give up riding if I could be on a horse like Sea The Stars? This colt has given me every reason to stay. This is the colt of a lifetime.”

The colt said goodbye. Now, the colt’s best friend has said goodbye.