Newcomers stamping their presence in jockey ranks

By Dennis Ryan

30 Aug 2023

Newcomers stamping their presence in jockey ranksSouth African Warren Kennedy and Irishman Joe Doyle are setting the pace in the opening weeks of the

The new season is barely a month old, but already signs are emerging that change may be imminent at the top of New Zealand’s jockey standings.
At the end of a busy weekend in the north, Warren Kennedy and Joe Doyle were the only jockeys with a double-figure tally. Both were newcomers to local ranks last season, Kennedy emigrating with his family from South Africa and Doyle from Ireland, and they’ve made impressive starts to 2023-24 with 13 wins apiece.
Not only that, but between them they have also ridden the winners of all three black-type races contested to date. Doyle was first cab off the rank combining with Belardo Boy in the Gr. 3 Winning Edge Presentations Winter Cup at Riccarton, while Kennedy won the Gr. 3 Cambridge Stud Northland Breeders’ Stakes on Crocetti and added last Saturday’s Gr. 2 Waikato Stud Foxbridge Plate on Dragon Leap.
Both now have their sights on the first Group One race of the new season, the Tarzino Trophy at Hastings on Saturday week. Having committed to Aromatic after partnering her to an impressive Taupo trial win last week, Kennedy has opened the way for Doyle take the mount on Dragon Leap.
Kennedy and Doyle were late starters to their debut New Zealand seasons but both were well satisfied with the results of that limited time. Karaka-based Kennedy’s season began in mid-October and quickly transferred his South African premiership credentials to the local scene.
By the end of the season he was fourth on the premiership with 76 wins at a strike rate of 6.54 and eight black type wins that included the Gr. 1 Zabeel Classic on Defibrillate. Doyle’s season was even shorter, from November to early April when he signed off with 23 wins capped by a career-first Group One on Pignan in the Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes.
“It took me a little while to adjust to the local ways and I got myself in trouble with the stewards getting to know the whip rules,” 27-year-old Doyle told RaceForm this week. “I went back home in April very happy with how things had gone and it wasn’t a hard decision to come back here in plenty of time for the new season.
“I’ve made a tremendous start, I couldn’t be more delighted, and with my agent Kevin Booth lining up the rides, we’re going to be as busy as we can be, that’s the plan of action.
“The travelling can be taxing, but nothing like back home, so I’ll be riding down in Christchurch on Thursday and Saturday, then I’m really looking forward to getting on Dragon Leap in the big one next week.”
Kennedy is set to make his first trip beyond the upper North Island this week with plans to also ride both days at Riccarton.
“I left my country on a high and it’s always a worry that things mightn’t work out at the other end, whether you will pick up where you left off. However the way things worked out it couldn’t have been much better, it didn’t take long for my mind to be at ease.
“I’m going to give this season a good go and with the first month behind me already it has definitely got off to the right start.”
Kennedy was enticed to consider New Zealand as a career option by compatriot Donovan Mansour, whose close association with Byerley Park owner Daniel Nakhle has also had a significant bearing on Kennedy’s fortunes.
Along with riding trackwork regularly at the South Auckland training facility, Kennedy has been the raceday partner of the Nakhle owned, Danny Walker and Aaron Tata-trained Crocetti in the last two wins of his unbeaten hat-trick.
“He’s the real deal,” says the 43-year-old South African, “he’s only been over 1200 metres so far but he’s very strong and I’m confident he’ll be every bit as effective over more.”
On top of his Byerley Park duties, Kennedy also rides trackwork for Lance Noble at the nearby Lindsay Racing complex. He has fitted in well where Leith Innes left off when he retired immediately after riding the Brendan and Jo Lindsay home-bred Pinarello to victory in the 2022 Queensland Derby.
“Riding at Byerley Park and Lindsay Racing as well as getting down to Matamata when I can keeps me busy, but I don’t mind that. I’ve been very lucky to get on some decent horses and I’m looking forward to what’s ahead.
“I do miss the day-to-day contact that went with being part of the racing community back home. In that respect it’s not quite the same, but other than that it’s been an easy transition.”
Neither Doyle nor Kennedy is at this stage making any bold predictions about what the jockeys’ premiership standings might look like as the season rolls on, and nor are they buying into any Rugby World Cup analysis.
When Kennedy arrived at Te Rapa last Saturday morning, just hours after the All Blacks’ drubbing at the hands of a rampant Springbok pack, he was surprisingly ambivalent.
“I didn’t watch the game and I actually don’t follow rugby that much,” he said. “With two young children I have to take my turn with the TV as they’d rather be watching their stuff, and when I get the chance I don’t mind joining in with them. That keeps me balanced.”