Quietly determined jockey a worthy champ and a credit to his profession
Colin Keane’s coronation as champion jockey confirms his status as a rising star of the Flat scene.
Make no mistake, this is a rider who has the capacity to make a lasting impression at the highest level.
You don’t emulate the likes of Pat Smullen, Mick Kinane and Johnny Murtagh by fluke, and Keane’s name now sits alongside those marquee figures on the championship roll of honour.
The former pony racing phenomenon and runaway champion apprentice was always a prodigious talent, but he is also more than that.
Hard-working and humble, his willingness to knuckle down and his refusal to be intimidated out of it when the towering figure of nine-time champion Smullen loomed large over the past couple of months speaks volumes for this young man’s character.
Keane is just 23 years of age but there is a quiet self-belief and dogged tenacity about him that doesn’t always accompany such precocious talent.
When Smullen first drew level with him at the end of September, there was a sense that the natural order was about to be resumed.
Instead, Keane went to Dundalk three days later and rode a treble.
The following week Smullen lit up Dundalk with a four-timer to regain parity. Then in the finale he looked poised to outpoint Keane when coming there on Bold Knight, only for Keane to galvanise Thunder Crash for a thrilling short-head triumph.
That was the season, right there – Smullen threatening all the while, but Keane refusing to bend the knee. In the end he pulled away for an emphatic victory that in no way flatters him which, given the calibre of the runner-up, is quite something.
Of course, Dermot Weld’s subdued season impacted on Smullen’s firepower, but that should not detract from Keane’s achievement.
With the unstinting assistance of a fired-up Ger Lyons, he seized his opportunity to secure an historic feat, and the only real surprise about his being crowned king is that it has happened so soon.
This is a guy who always had the stuff to do it, but the urgent and determined manner in which he has has gone about it has been invigorating to witness. He is an absolute credit to his profession.