Colin Keane has finally had time to reflect on a stellar season which was capped with a first Breeders’ Cup success on Tarnawa.
Keane admits getting the ride on Dermot Weld’s filly was simply a case of being in the right place at the right time – but with all bar one rival behind him turning into the straight, he advertised his talents on a world stage.
The landmark victory came on the back of him being crowned Ireland’s champion jockey for a second time – after a thrilling battle with Shane Foley – in a year in which he also rode his first two Classic winners on Siskin and Even So for his boss, Ger Lyons.
“It couldn’t have gone much better and winning at the Breeders’ Cup was just brilliant,” said Keane of 2020.
“The year started off with us winning a Classic with Siskin and then it went from strength to strength. We were lucky enough to win another with Even So, I won the Matron on Champers Elysees, winning the battle to be champion and topping it off with a Breeders’ Cup winner.
“Thankfully it all fell right for us. It was a hard year, especially giving up two weeks with quarantine (to ride Siskin in the Sussex Stakes), so we really had to knuckle down, but it was worth it.”
Keane cannot speak highly enough of Lyons, for whom Siskin and Even So were his first Classic successes, too.
“I’ve been riding for the right people, I ride for a great boss so I’m very lucky,” said Keane.
“I wouldn’t be in the position I am today without Ger to be honest, he got me going and has brought us to where we are.”
While Keane’s agent Ruaidhri Tierney cast his net far and wide in the search for winners in the closing weeks of the season, one trainer who did not employ the champion was Weld – yet when Christophe Soumillon was ruled out at the 11th hour having tested positive for Covid-19, it was Keane who was called upon.
“It was just a case of being in the right place at the right time last weekend,” said Keane.
“It’s not the way you want it to happen, but I’ll take it. Mr Weld isn’t someone I’ve ridden for much to be honest, so to get a ride in a big race and win on her for him is great.
“We’d talked about it (tactics) and while we didn’t make a plan as such, Mr Weld said he wanted me to either be on the inside or the outside, but not the middle – as she’s a filly who likes a bit of space and she has a very good turn of foot.
“Turning in I wasn’t looking to go between them, I just wanted to give her as clear a run as possible and she picked up very well.
“You’d like to think she’s up there with the best about, it is very hard to beat Magical, she’s one of the very best, rock solid and never runs a bad race. Going there you’d be thinking if you’re second to Magical you’ve run a good race. It takes a very good one to beat her.”
With two titles already in the bag, Keane is hopeful of keeping his momentum going into next season and he even picked up rides for Aidan O’Brien’s powerful Ballydoyle stable in the closing weeks.
“Every year we set a target to beat the previous year’s tally – I didn’t think that would be possible this year because of Covid and my quarantine, but my agent did a great job in getting me on the right horses and we got into a great rhythm,” explained Keane.
“It was September it all seemed to click, I had over 20 winners and it really got me going. I was lucky enough to team up with Aidan towards the end on a few spares with Seamie (Heffernan) suspended and Wayne (Lordan) injured and thankfully some of them won.
“I’ve a lot to thank my agent for, he’s done a very good job.”