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Picture: Warren Kennedy drives Dionysus to victory in the Gr.3 SkyCity Hamilton Waikato Cup (2400m) at Te Rapa. (Photo: Kenton Wright (Race Images)) 

Turf Talk

Warren Kennedy converted favouritism on the Roger James and Robert Wellwood-trained Dionysus in the Gr 3 Skycity Hamilton Waikato Cup over 2400m at Te Rapa in New Zealand on Saturday.

However, that would be small consolation for the five day suspension he picked up for careless riding at Tauranga on Friday which means he will miss a big Boxing Day meeting where he had a number of rides in “major races”.

In what should be a model lesson for SA racing, inquires in New Zealand are heard on the day of the incident.

Jockeys do not have the ability to manipulate the dates of the suspension as they appear to be able to do here.

The first paragraph of the inquiry makes interesting reading:

At the start of the hearing, Mr Kennedy asked whether the charge could be deferred and heard on Saturday 16 December. He indicated that if his request was agreed to, he would admit the charge and with a 10 day deferment, would be able to ride on Boxing Day, where he had a number of rides in the major races. The Stewards advised that while they had sympathy for Mr Kennedy’s situation, Raceday charges must be heard on the day unless there are extreme circumstances, such as witnesses not being available. In this case, it was a routine careless riding charge, there was no justification for the matter to be deferred and there was no precedent for such.

The effect of deferring the hearing would be to, in effect, provide an 11 day deferment from the date of the breach. It is noted that NZTR only extended the deferment time from 7 to 10 days under the Rules (Rule 1106 refers) earlier this year.

As there is no precedent for deferring hearings of this nature and there is no provision in the Rules to do so in such a case, the hearing went ahead and Mr Kennedy exercised his right to defend the charge.

The end of the inquiry states:

After consideration of all the circumstances, a 5-day suspension was imposed.


The Respondent’s Licence to ride in races is suspended for a period of 5 days commencing after racing on 24 December, and concluding after racing on 30 December 2023.

On Saturday the Ocean Park six-year-old gelding Dionysus was the first leg of a quick double for Kennedy.

It was a welcome double because his chief rival in the New Zealand Jockeys Championship, Irishman Joe Doyle, had scored an earlier double and had closed the gap on the log.

Kennedy’s double took him to 64 wins for the season.

He has done that at a strike rate of  18.8%, or in New Zeland they say it is 5.31 i.e. he rides a winner every 5.31 races.

Doyle is nine wins behind him but is only riding a winner every 7.84 races.

With the scratching of well-fancied runner Aromatic, Dionysus became the prominent public-elect for the Cup on Saturday starting a warm $2.20 favourite, with punters backing Prise De Fer on the back-up closing at $5.30, WRITES JESS DE LAUTOUR OF LOVERACING.NZ.

Dionysus jumped away in his typically tardy fashion, with a prepared Warren Kennedy quickly finding cover and slotting him into a comfortable position third-last in the early stages. The tempo was steady up front with Margaret Jean heading the field, Kennedy stalking Prise De Fer’s every move and had Dionysus travelling beautifully widest on the home turn.

Looming large on the outside, Dionysus moved up to challenge Prise De Fer, and the last 200m became a three-horse war as $27 hope Coruba Jak threatened an upset. Kingsclere’s charge proved too strong in the final bounds to score by a ½ length, with Prise De Fer gallant under the 59kg in second and Coruba Jak gaining a Group placing finishing seven lengths ahead of the remaining runners.

Kennedy regained the ride aboard the son of Ocean Park after claiming the Gr.3 Queen Elizabeth II Cup (2400m) last season, followed by a third in the Gr.3 Wellington Cup (3200m).

“He went absolutely fantastic,” Kennedy said.

“He’s a lovely horse and I think Roger and Robert have really brought him on the right way. He’s super fit at the moment and enjoying his racing, he can be a handful but he did everything right today, bar jumping out of the gates which he never gets right.

“The race didn’t map out as I thought it would, I looked up and saw El Nymph back where I was, so I wondered where the pace would come from, but they keep a reasonable gallop all the way round. I got on the back of Prise De Fer who I thought was probably the next best, he tracked me through and this horse settled beautifully in the run, he was breathing well.

“I wanted to put the horse (Prise De Fer) with the biggest weight under pressure early, so I challenged him at the top of the straight and got a bit of a lead. This horse (Dionysus) was floating around quite a bit waiting for the challenge to come, and when Prise De Fer got within a neck of me, the horse realised he had to go again and kicked on.”

James was complimentary of the Cambridge trainers’ team following the victory, which couldn’t have come at better notice.

“There’s no ‘I’ in team, and we’re fortunate we have a champion team behind us. Days like this reward everybody,” he said.

“Warren had it in his mind that he didn’t want to be snookered on the fence, he’s a class rider and he’d thought of everything we’d thought of. He rode him a treat.”