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Colin Keane looks back with pride on season to remember

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.”

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Siskin provided Colin Keane and Ger Lyons with a first Classic winner in the Irish 2000 Guineas
Siskin provided Colin Keane and Ger Lyons with a first Classic winner in the Irish 2000 Guineas (PA Wire)

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.

Colin Keane punches the air after coming round the whole field to win on Tarnawa
Colin Keane punches the air after coming round the whole field to win on Tarnawa (Darron Cummings/AP)

“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.”

Soumillon ruled out of Breeders’ Cup following positive Covid-19 tests

Christophe Soumillon will be unable to ride Tarnawa in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf after twice testing positive for Covid-19 – and will be replaced by Colin Keane.

Trainer Dermot Weld confirmed both Soumillon’s positive tests and that dual Irish champion Keane will therefore take the ride on the Aga Khan’s four-year-old filly in Saturday’s Grade One race at Keeneland.

“Unfortunately, he is positive for Covid-19,” said Weld.

“He was tested twice and came up positive both times. So Colin Keane will deputise.”

Soumillon had ridden Tarnawa to back-to-back Group One victories in both the Prix de l’Opera and Prix Vermeille at ParisLongchamp over the past two months.

Keane, who has not previously ridden her, is at the Breeders’ Cup to partner Siskin in the Mile – having this week claimed his second Irish title to add to his 2017 success.

Tarnawa is currently second-favourite, behind Aidan O’Brien’s multiple Group One-winning mare Magical, for the 12-furlong Turf.

Ton-up Keane delighted with second title

Colin Keane spoke of his delight at being crowned Irish champion Flat jockey for the second time after bringing up his century for the campaign at the Curragh.

While the season does not officially end until the November Handicap card at Naas next weekend, Keane effectively confirmed his title with his 99th winner at Naas on Sunday.

His nearest pursuer, Shane Foley, also enjoyed a winner on the same afternoon, but was still seven adrift of Keane before his five booked rides at the Curragh on Monday – and both jockeys will miss the domestic Flat season finale, because they are flying to America midweek for the Breeders’ Cup.

While Foley was out of luck on his final day of Irish action this term, Keane did sign off with a winner aboard Sarah Dawson’s 11-4 favourite Pretty Boy Floyd in the concluding GAIN Equine Nutrition Handicap.

“That’s a great way to finish up,” said Keane, who previously won the Flat championship in 2017.

“It was nice to get the 100 up on my last ride. I’m delighted – to win the title once is what you dream of growing up, so to get a second one, when it didn’t look likely for such a long time, is great.

“Shane Foley is a good friend of mine and would have been a very deserving winner of it.

“September was probably the real game-changer, because I rode 26 winners that month. That really helped.”

The obvious highlights of Keane’s century were the Classic wins of Even So in the Irish Oaks and Irish 2,000 Guineas hero Siskin, whom he is due to ride in this weekend’s Breeders’ Cup Mile.

Ecliptical pounces for Keane and Lyons

Ecliptical produced a memorable performance to come from last to first as he pulled off a long-term plan in the valuable Foran Equine Irish EBF Auction Race Final – to complete a Naas double for connections.

Title-chasing Colin Keane anchored Ger Lyons’ well-backed 9-2 shot last of 15 in the valuable event.

If any of Ecliptical’s supporters were becoming anxious, however, Keane was not among them – and after pulling to the wide outside, he circled the field and ate up ground over the stiff finish.

The juvenile, unraced since winning his second career start on similarly testing ground in a Bellewstown maiden two months ago, proved his pace for this drop to seven furlongs – winning by a length and a quarter from 50-1 outsider The Blue Panther, with Vafortino a further half-length back in third.

The winning trainer’s brother and assistant Shane Lyons said: “When he won in Bellewstown the plan was to go for this race.

“He wants a mile – but we thought with the bit of cut in the ground this would suit.

“He’ll be a lovely horse next year, is all heart and showed there that he has a touch of class as well.

“He was drawn 16, Colin dropped him in – and to be able to come from last to first, you have to be good.”

Parent’s Prayer was another winner to strike from off the pace, capping a fine weekend for Archie Watson in the Listed Irish Stallion Farms EBF Garnet Stakes.

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Lambourn trainer Watson, who 24 hours earlier had won his first Group One courtesy of Glen Shiel in the Qipco British Champions Sprint at Ascot, was travelling Parent’s Prayer to Ireland for the second time in as many months – following her third in the Fairy Bridge Stakes at Gowran.

She went two places better this time, challenging down the middle and surging clear under Ben Coen to win by three lengths at 12-1 – with 80-1 outsider Stormy Belle and 8-1 shot Best On Stage dead-heating for second.

Coen said of the winner: “She loved the ground and travelled through the race very easily.

“She picked up well at the two pole, and I probably got there too soon. She was getting a bit lonely, but she toughed it out.”

Listed honours were also on offer in the following Irish Stallion Farms EBF Bluebell Stakes, and Jessica Harrington’s Barrington Court claimed them to give Keane’s title rival Shane Foley a winner.

JP McManus’ former hurdler was having just her fourth start on the Flat, at the age of six, and won for the second time in this discipline – arriving on the scene in the straight and finishing a length and a half in front of Snapraeceps.

Harrington is already planning a swift return for the winning 15-8 favourite.

She said: “She may come back here for the Finale Stakes (November 7).

“I don’t think she will go back over hurdles – because every time she runs she hurts herself.”

Power Under Me was a winning debutant in the opening Tifrums Irish EBF Maiden – for Keane, Lyons and Ecliptical’s owner Vincent Gaul.

The gelding repelled the challenge of favourite Coulthard in the final furlong to win by two and a quarter lengths at 16-5.

Power Under Me was making a belated debut, but Shane Lyons expects there will be plenty more to come.

“He has a high knee action, so we were waiting for the ground,” he said.

“He’s only come good in the last six weeks. He was backward, but his work was very promising at home.

“Ideally we would like to get another run in for the Birdcatcher (back at Naas next month), but I don’t think we’ll have time for that.

“He’ll be a nice horse for next year. It’s amazing how well (Power Under Me’s sire) Mehmas has done this year, and he’s our only one.”

Elizabethan ran out an easy winner of the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies Maiden, for Aidan O’Brien and Seamie Heffernan.

On her fourth career start, she was not inconvenienced racing out on her own up the stands side as she broke her duck by a length and a quarter at 100-30.

Wood Ranger was the emphatic winning favourite in the Foran Equine Irish EBF Nursery Handicap.

The 15-8 shot and top weight collared long-time leader Fine Distraction in the final furlong to prevail by two and three-quarter lengths under 5lb claimer Nathan Crosse for Willie McCreery, with the first two finishing well clear.

The winning trainer said: “I was trying to get him into the main race [the auction final], but it’s nice to pick up the (Plus 10) bonus here.

“He’s probably a seven-furlong horse, but we had to run him with the good prize-money here today.”