Jack Kennedy has officially been ruled out of riding at the Cheltenham Festival by trainer Gordon Elliott.
The jockey has been sidelined with a broken leg since January after falling off Top Bandit, who sadly suffered fatal injuries, during a race at Naas. Kennedy has been Elliott’s top jockey for some time now and had been waiting in the wings to take over the reins from serial Cheltenham winner Davy Russell, who came out of a brief retirement to help out in Kennedy’s absence.
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Elliott had hoped that Kennedy’s latest leg break was not as bad as first feared and that there was a chance he could return to fitness in time for the four-day meeting in Gloucestershire. The Irish trainer has now confirmed the 23-year-old will miss out on the ‘greatest show on turf’ but is likely to be back in time for the Grand National at Aintree.
He told the Racing Post: "Unfortunately, after working incredibly hard over the last two months to try to get back for Cheltenham, Jack won't make it.
"He saw his surgeon Paddy Kenny this morning and it looks like he will be out for another three or four weeks. There are still plenty of big races after Cheltenham so we'll be looking forward to welcoming him back for Fairyhouse, Aintree and Punchestown."
Of course it is a huge blow for both the jockey and trainer for Kennedy missing out on the festival, but Elliott emphasised how that he has a lot of confidence in the other jockeys in his stable, which has been strengthened by the return of veteran Russell.
He added: "We have a terrific team of jockeys here in Cullentra and I'm in the very lucky position of having Davy Russell, Jordan Gainford and Sam Ewing there. Davy's experience around Cheltenham is invaluable, while Jordan and Sam are a huge part of the team here. I couldn't speak highly enough of them. There will be plenty of rides for them all at Cheltenham."
The more enticing rides on Mighty Potter and Gerri Colombe, who are favourite for the Turners Novices' Chase and Brown Advisory respectively, are now up for grabs, and all of Elliott’s team will be fighting for selection. Of course given his extensive experience, Russell appears to be the frontrunner to be charged with Cullentra House’s biggest assets, but we could also see huge opportunities arise for the likes of Gainford and Ewing on this stage in Kennedy’s absence.
While Elliott had been hoping Kennedy would be back in the saddle for Cheltenham, by convincing Russell to come out of retirement so soon after the incident at Naas shows that he has been prepared for this outcome, and that has only left him and his team better prepared for the festival.
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