Racing: Irish call off card as Kelly is mourned by racing

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The Independent Online

A minute's silence was observed at all five British meetings yesterday as a mark of respect for the Irish jockey Kieran Kelly who died on Tuesday night. The 25-year-old rider had sustained head injuries in a fall at Kilbeggan last Friday. He is the first jockey to suffer a fatal fall on an Irish racecourse for over 20 years.

Irish racing officials have announced that today's card scheduled for Tramore, the first day of their four-day festival, has been postponed until Monday as a mark of respect. The final race at Gowran Park on Tuesday night was also called off when news came through of the decision to turn off Kelly's life-support machine.

Leading racing figures on both sides of the Irish Sea have spoken of their shock at Kelly's death. The champion trainer, Martin Pipe, led the tributes to the jockey who had his first ride in the Grand National in 2001 on Pipe's Dark Stranger.

"He was a very talented jockey and I had a lot of respect for him," the trainer said. "It's a great shock and sadness for everyone. We have a lot of Irish staff here and they are all very upset as is AP [McCoy]."

Kelly was stable jockey to Dessie Hughes and was riding that trainer's Balmy Native in a chase when the horse fell at the fifth-last fence. Kelly was kicked on the head and Balmy Native then rolled on top of him.

Hughes's son, Richard, the top Flat jockey, said: "Kieran was a wonderful fellow. He never had a bad word to say about anyone and he was turning into a top-class jockey. Although he was a successful jockey, he used to come in every morning and help dad with the horses. You would never see Kieran hiding in the tack room when they were out sweeping the yard - he would be out there with them."

Kelly landed two big prizes for the stable when he won the Royal & SunAlliance Novices' Hurdle on Hardy Eustace at the Cheltenham Festival, and the Mersey Novices' Hurdle on Leinster at Aintree.

"There was an awful lot of pressure on Kieran at Cheltenham as he wasn't known as a big-race jockey," Hughes said, "but dad stuck by him and he proved he was as good as anyone on the big day."

Kelly's last winner came on Friday, the day of his fall, on board Barrack Buster for the trainer Martin Brassil, who said yesterday: "It's heart breaking. He was a really nice man with a lovely manner and was as brave as a lion."

* Hawk Wing, who put up what appeared to be one of the outstanding post-war performances over a mile in the Lockinge Stakes in May, has been retired from racing after failing to recover from a leg injury. The colt damaged a ligament when beaten in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot. He will now join the stallion team at Coolmore Stud in Ireland. His trainer, Aidan O'Brien, said: "He was an exceptionally natural horse. He was a brilliant worker and a natural athlete."

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