Kieran Kelly

Popular National Hunt jockey
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Kieran Anthony Kelly, jockey: born Carbury, Co Kildare 25 June 1978; died Dublin 12 August 2003.

The jockey Kieran Kelly, who received fatal injuries in a fall at Kilbeggan in Westmeath last Friday, was a widely popular, emergent member of the Irish National Hunt scene. The fact that Kelly was the first jockey to be killed in a race in Ireland for 17 years only added to the sense of shock surrounding his death.

His death came only six months after he had achieved the landmark win of his career, the Royal & Sun Alliance Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, aboard the Dessie Hughes-trained Hardy Eustace. Any horse and jockey that feature in an Irish-trained win at Cheltenham are greeted as heroes when they are led into the mayhem of the course's winner's enclosure. Kelly responded to his moment in the limelight with deserved glee.

A month later, he was victorious at the Aintree Grand National meeting when landing the Mersey Novices' Hurdle aboard Leinster, also trained by Hughes. Kelly could also claim to have ridden this year's Grand National winner, having partnered Monty's Pass to win at Tipperary in May 2001. The gelding was one of 32 winners Kelly rode that season, his best numerically.

Born in Co Kildare, which houses Irish racing's headquarters at The Curragh, Kelly began his apprenticeship with Mickey Flynn, switching to Dessie Hughes, who used to ride the legendary hurdler Monksfield, when Flynn retired. Kelly became good friends with Hughes' son Richard, a leading Flat rider now based in England, who was on hand at Cheltenham to lead in Hardy Eustace.

His first winner came on the Flat in June 1996 but Kelly soon switched to jump racing and partnered his first winner under that code when Return Again won at Dundalk in September 1997. Before turning professional in October 2000, he twice finished third in the claiming riders' championship, each time with 17 winners.

His last winner, the hurdler Barrack Buster, came on the same card as his fatal fall, which saw him kicked on the head and rolled on when falling from the Hughes-trained Balmy Native. Kelly failed to regain consciousness and his life-support machine was switched off.

Richard Griffiths

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