It was the perfect end to an imperfect season in Hong Kong yesterday for Michael Kinane. A typically strident piece of riding got home the 64-1 shot Precision in the Hong Kong Cup and reminded us once again that, at his keenest, Kinane remains among the best of the small men's trade in the world.
Yet this is not a year which will be remembered for any of the Irishman's many victories. It will instead have the unfortunate signpost of his defeat on Rock Of Gibraltar in the Breeders' Cup Mile in Chicago.
For, despite yesterday's resurgence at Sha Tin, we have to accept that Michael Joseph Kinane is about to be placed on the cut-price counter. The normally flinty features cracked open because even Micky Joe himself must realise there are not too many of these days remaining.
It used to be that Kinane was the most reliable rider in Europe at least, maybe in the world. And reliable, in terms of jockeyship, means best. Most pilots can pull off a single smart win as Kinane did yesterday. The skill overall though is not to produce single virtuoso performances, rather to eliminate the mistakes.
In America certainly this has been a quality beyond both Kinane and his counterpart at Godolphin, Frankie Dettori. The former, at 43, now makes more errors than he used to and it is not a fact which has escaped his paymasters.
Word from the Ballydoyle/Coolmore axis is that a line of succession is already being contemplated. Expect to see coming through the "in" door the elfin figure of Jamie Spencer.
All this, as we witnessed in the former colony, does not make Michael Kinane a bad jockey. Like Pat Eddery before him, he could ride on successfully for several years even though his air of impregnability has now been fouled.
For the first time yesterday, counterbalanced by the thrill of victory, Kinane was able to discuss Rock Of Gibraltar and Arlington Park. "Sport will deal you bad cards some days and you just have to take it," he said. "You have to learn to take disappointment in sport. If you allow it to affect you, you dont progress and you just have to take from it what you can. You dont set out to do anything wrong but that's often the way things happen."
Everything happened beautifully yesterday for Kinane and Precision's former British-based trainer, David Oughton. For much of the Cup the contest was more of a saunter. Several horses threw their heads in the air at the exasperating pace, like fledglings anticipating a meal.
The juicy stuff, however, came in the closing stages, as Kinane cut down Germany's Paolini in the shadow of the post, winning by a short-head after turning into the straight in seventh position.
"It was little bit unexpected but the way the race was run it was muddling," Kinane said. "I was on the outside and could to slide into the race with a minimum of fuss. While everybody was having a tough trip I was having a very easy one and was able to accelerate and he accelerated well.
"I thought I would win turning for home because my horse was full of it. I was second on him in the Hong Kong Derby and Queen Elizabeth II Cup and hes always threatened to do something like this. You might run the race again and get a different result but the reality is that my horse has been posted up as the winner and you can't change that."
Dettori's mount, Grandera, who was nevertheless crowned the World Series champion, endured pugilistic encounters on his way through to seventh on a day when Hong Kong-trained horses won three of the four Group One International races.
"The pace was too slow," the Italian said. "It killed me. He needs a strong or even tempo. Then I couldn't get out and it's a shame because I was on the best horse in the race." Grandera stays in training.
There was a British claim to fame when the domestic representative Olympic Express steamed to success in the Hong Kong Mile, winning by a neck from Electronic Unicorn with Japan's Tokai Point a further half-length back in third.
The Ivan Allan-trained gelding is the equine artist formerly known as Ecclesiastical, who was once in the care of James Fanshawe and the victor in the Silver Bowl at Haydock before finishing second in last year's Britannia Stakes at Royal Ascot.
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