It was Monday morning, 10th of January. As we sat down to start back from the Christmas holidays, the Master was looking very pleased with himself. “Oh no! This is always a bad sign!” When it came round to English time, he was looking even happier, an even worse sign! I feel a story coming on! Anyway, he told us that we had to write a letter to our heroes, inviting them to come to our school. “Maybe this won’t be so bad…” First of all we had to introduce ourselves, telling them a little about ourselves and our school. Next, we had to butter them up, by telling them how we are such big fans, and love their work. Lastly, we had to tell them why we wanted them to come to our school. “Ok, it was confirmed, this wasn’t going to be bad, it was actually going to be fun!! I wrote mine to Michael Kinane, a world famous flat jockey, possibly one of the best!
Some people got replies within a week of sending the letter. But as the weeks passed by, I had lost hope!
By the 1st of April, I’d forgotten all about it. That was, until, I was handed a letter in the yard. I opened it with great eagerness, it was him! I couldn’t believe it! And what’s more; he was actually coming!!! As soon as I got home, I rang my sister to tell her, but her reply was “Ha, good one! I nearly believed you there! (It was April Fool’s Day) “No, I’m serious, I swear!” “Well, I’ll believe you when I actually see the letter myself.” She saw it later, anyway. But the hardest thing was the long wait from then until the first week in May, when the date was finalised.
The morning of Wednesday, the 11th May
He came at 11 o’clock. He had just introduced himself when we had to go outside for break. When we came back in, he entered the room to a well deserved applause. He told us a little about himself and we soon started the question and answer session.
This was very interesting, and it gave us an idea of what a jockey’s life would be like. When we finished, he signed autographs for anybody that wanted one, and he stood in for pictures as well. Mick gave everyone goody bags, caps, he gave the school some extra gifts to raffle off, and he gave me a few extra things because I was the one to ask him down.
Q/A with Michael Kinane:
What age were you when you first rode a pony?
Well, I can’t remember, I was always riding ponies, for as long as I can remember.
What age were you when you rode your first winner?
15, I was on a horse called Muscari, for Larry Greene. That as my first race too.
Which racecourse did you first ride at?
Were you not influenced to be a National Hunt jockey, because of your father?
Well, I was actually, but he decided to start me off on the flat, to teach me the basics. But, luckily, I stayed on the flat!
When was moment, when you knew you wanted to be a jockey?
I always knew I wanted to be a jockey, I couldn’t see myself doing anything else! But, I was only 15 when I entered the industry. It’s very hard at that young age, because it’s an adult’s world. You’re supposed to behave like one, and it’s hard to force yourself to be mature. But when the time comes that you love your job, and you are satisfied with how you are doing it, that peace is very rewarding.
What was your most important winner?
Well, you never forget your very first winner, that was special! Also, winning the Epsom Derby on Commander in Chief was important to me as well.
What was your worst fall?
Probably in Hong Kong, Happy Valley in 92. The track there is tight. I was on a role, I already had 2 winners that day. I went for a run on the inside, but the horse wasn’t as committed as me, he clipped off another horse and fell, taking me with him.
How many bones did you break?
I broke my wrists 6 times, collar bones, cheek bone and a few vertebrae (I was shocked to hear what he said next) I was lucky, I didn’t break too many.
Who was the hardest horse you have ever ridden?
Hmmm…… difficult (small pause) hmm, very difficult! Well, the hardest puller was a horse called… I think something empire, I can’t remember the first part of his name! Riding him was like trying to stop a runaway train!
What was your first impression of Sea the Stars?
Well, I was with John Oxx. I saw a leggy bay colt trotting up towards me. I asked him, who’s he by? He said he’s a half brother to Galileo. How’d you get him here?! Never you mind that.
What makes Sea The Stars so special?
He has no flaws, which is very rare in a horse. He is complete, and very strong. Usually people try to cover up their horses flaws, but we didn’t have to!
What’s he like in the stable?
He’s lovely, he might nip or bite playfully, but he’s lovely.
Actually, I have a funny story as to how intelligent Sea The Stars is. All his kit (bridle, saddle etc.) is hanging on the wall beside his stable. John Oxx’s wife had some visitors and she brought them to see him. He wanted to be ridden so, he picked his bridle off it’s hook and handed it to his lad!!(Person who looks after him)
Coming up to the Arc, did you feel pressured?
Of course! He media build up was massive! Everybody was coming to see Sea The Stars win, if anyone else won, the public would have been disappointed. Getting into the “zone” was hard, trying to get focused was very difficult.
Is it true that you postponed your retirement just to ride Sea the Stars?
I knew it was coming, but he renewed my energy and commitment to get the ride.
Do you ever wish that you had stayed a little longer in racing?
I knew retirement was coming, it was the right thing to do. I didn’t expect to have any good rides the next season, so I knew it was the right time to leave.
Do you have any regrets?
No, you can’t live backwards, never regret, you have to learn to move forwards.
Apart from Sea The Stars, who was your favourite horse to ride?
Rock of Gibraltar. I was like riding a “push button!” He was so much fun!
Who was your biggest rival?
Probably Frankie Dettori, because he was riding for Godolphin. –but are ye friends?- Yeah, we’re good friends, it’s eaiser to rather than not to be! You never know when you’ll need a favour?
Who was the best person you ever met through racing?
I’ve met some fantastic people, it’s very hard to single out just one, but John Oxx, Dermot Weld, Sir Michael Stoute and Aidan O’Brien are just a few.
How many races have you ridden in?
Hmm… I’d say around… 22 or 3 thousand (and about 10% of those were winners!)
I think I speak on behalf of everyone here. At St. Brendan’s, by saying that we all thoroughly enjoyed Mick’s visit. He is a wonderful, down to earth man and it was an honour to meet him.