Irish jockey jumps at Aussie opportunity

Irish jockey Brien Kane will ride Its The Truth, trained by John O’Connor, in today’s Grand Annual Steeplechase.
Irish jockey Brien Kane will ride Its The Truth, trained by John O’Connor, in today’s Grand Annual Steeplechase.

TWO months ago Brien Kane was home in Ireland in snow.

Today he is aiming to claim victory in the world-famous Wheelie Waste Grand Annual Steeplechase (5500m) on his first visit to Warrnambool’s May Racing Carnival.

The 21-year-old had never been to Warrnambool before Sunday, when he rode his mount Its The Truth in a school over the tricky Tozer Road double.

“I’ve heard a good bit,” Kane said.

“I know it’s bigger than Oakbank and it was a great race.”

Kane took out his jumps riding licence in Ireland last year but a lack of opportunities led him to pursue a career in Australia.

“It’s a big gamble but when you are stuck in my position and you want to race ride and there are no opportunities, you will do anything. If that means moving across the other side of world, you do it.”

Kane was recruited by Murray Bridge trainer John O’Connor. There are no jumps jockeys in Murray Bridge or nearby, so he solved the problem after hearing of Kane through Irish contacts.

“I came over here with the hope of being given a chance,” Kane said.

“There are hundreds of jockeys at home in Ireland and no one is giving them the opportunities.”

Kane, from County Meath, said he was enjoying his time riding for O’Connor, having lifted Its The Truth to third in last week’s Great Eastern Steeplechase at Oakbank. 

So far he has had seven rides for six in the prizemoney without a win.

He said just having a ride in the Great Eastern last week had been a thrill, let alone finishing in the prizemoney.

“I was cantering down to the start and I was like ‘it’s great to have a start in this race’. To be placed in it was a buzz.”

Kane wants to make a mark in Australia.

“I will stay for as long as the season is going well. 

“I wouldn’t mind going back after things quieten down.” But going home is far from his mind as prepares for the ride of his life over the 33 obstacles in the Grand Annual.

O’Connor is excited about today’s race. He is owed nothing by his bargain buy Its The Truth. He purchased the 10-year-old gelding for $10,000 four years ago for a career on the flat.

But after earning just $77,000 from 87 career starts, O’Connor opted to send him over jumps. 

So far, he has won more than $19,000 from eight starts over obstacles. But no win.

“He’s one of those horses,”  O’Connor said. “They get to the twilight of their flat ability and what do you do with them?

“Having jumps racing gave him a new opportunity, prolonged his lifestyle. People who complain about jumps racing don’t understand it.

“He jumps well. If he was on the flat he would be struggling to get a place in a $10,000 race.”

Instead, he ran third in the $166,000 Great Eastern Steeplechase (4950m) 10 days ago, picking up $14,400 in stakemoney.


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