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Heartbreak for Jack Kennedy as he is ruled out of the Cheltenham Festival


While it’s the abundance of world-class thoroughbreds who traditionally dominate the headlines at the Cheltenham Festival each and every year, there are also a select few jockeys whose performances at the famed event capture the imagination of the avid and casual National Hunt racing fans alike.

A successful meeting at Prestbury Park can make one’s career – and when 21-year-old jockey Jack Kennedy won the Gold Cup atop Minella Indo in 2021 – he had let the racing world know that he had well and truly arrived. Since that fateful day two years ago, Kennedy has continued his rise to prominence, having secured victories in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase, Savills Chase, Drinmore Novice Chase and the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle to name a few.

However, unfortunately for Kennedy, he will not be taking part in 2023’s renewal after losing his race against time to be fit for the Cotswolds meeting. Kennedy suffered a broken leg when falling in a fixture at Naas in January – which marked the fifth broken leg of his young career. To add insult to injury, the horse Kennedy was onboard (Top Bandit) had to be put down as a result of the fall.

“Cheltenham is just coming too soon. He tried his best, but it’s just coming too soon,” Kennedy’s agent Kevin O’Ryan said.

“He is keen to get back as soon as possible, but he is going to give it all the time it needs.

“Hopefully it will be a couple of weeks after Cheltenham.”

While news of Kennedy’s absence for Cheltenham has come as somewhat of a shock, all-time great jockey Davy Russell has done a solid job in the limited opportunities since filling in for Gordon Elliott’s first-string rider. Russell would perform admirably at the Dublin Racing Festival in early February, reigning supreme in the Novice Chase by eight-and-a-half lengths from Adamantly Chose and Willie Mullins’ Gaillard Du Mesnil.

However, after what was an inspired ride from the 43-year-old, he too would face an injury scare after suffering a fall himself later on in the day. Given the fact that Russell had made a stunning U-turn and came out of retirement to ride for Elliott – many felt the injury setback would be too great a hurdle for him to overcome and would stop him from saddling up at Cheltenham.

With that being said, it appears as though Russell will be at Prestbury Park this month for what is likely to be his last hurrah – and considering he is expected to be aboard the majority of Elliott’s strongest contenders – don’t write the 25-time Cheltenham winner off to add more to that list.

For those interested in placing a bet on Russell to defy the Cheltenham betting odds and secure the Top Jockey award – at the time of writing, he is paying a tempting 8/1 with most operators – which is good for third favourite behind that of Paul Townend and Nico de Boinville.

Whether or not Kennedy’s unavailability impacts Elliott’s success at this year’s Festival remains to be seen – however – one thing is for certain, having Russell there to take over the reins has to be a dream come true for the Irish trainer.