Jaylah Kennedy salutes on Ceerseven

Jaylah jags first metro winner at The Valley

When Jaylah Kennedy came to Australia from New Zealand as a 16-year-old, some six years ago, becoming a jockey wasn’t really on the radar, despite both of her parents deriving from strong racing backgrounds having both ridden and now trained horses themselves. But what was initially planned as a 12-month sojourn to gain some life experience down under, has turned in to a new career in which she has now resides in Ballarat, apprentice to trainer Dan O’Sullivan.

Despite being knocked back from the Racing Victoria Apprentice Program the first time around, Kennedy has wasted no time making an immediate impression on the Victorian jockey ranks since gaining her license. It is coming up to nearly one year since she made her debut on El Santo at Ararat, and she has won 13 of her last 100 rides, beating market expectation with a 1.15 Actual To Expected Rating and boasting an 8.5% Profit On Turnover.

On Saturday at The Valley, she knocked down another milestone by riding her first metropolitan winner, successful on the Mitch Freedman trained Ceerseven in the Ascend Sales Trophies Challenger Handicap. It was also her first day riding on a metro Saturday, and her only ride for the day, a perfect start. From the second widest barrier she took the noted swooper back in the field to find cover, but timed her run to perfection to mow down the well backed Brooklyn Boss in impressive fashion.

For Kennedy the win in front of a 3,500 strong crowd on a feature day was a highlight she won’t forget any time soon, and we caught up with her during the week to hear of the immediate reactions post-race.

“I said (to myself) phew, I was so glad that I had won” Kennedy said.

“Otherwise I probably would’ve been very hard on myself. If I was beaten it would’ve been a very tight margin.

“I can’t even really describe it. Just coming back to the crowd and everybody cheering. It was a great bunch of owners there, they’re all really involved and to be able to get the win for them was really exciting.”

As well as Kennedy’s first metro winner, it was also Ceerseven’s first victory in town and another steppingstone for the Mitch Freedman four-year-old to take into stronger races this Autumn. The last time Ceerseven raced at The Valley was when he contested the Group 2 DCE Alister Clark Stakes of 2023, in which he ultimately raced greenly and underperformed in a hotly contested race.

A drifting favourite before being replaced late in betting by the runner-up, Kennedy says the talented son of Complacent still made some errors in the run on Saturday, but was able to use his damaging turn of foot to outlast her opposition over the mile.

“Thankfully, he was the strongest late. He probably should’ve won by a bit further if he had gone straight, but he still does a few things wrong.”

Kennedy will now focus her attention on riding more winners and gaining more opportunities in metro Saturday grade, where she looms as one of the key 3kg claimers currently riding in Victoria.

“I just want to keep riding winners and keep the consistency. It doesn't matter where I’m riding, I’m always trying 100% and that’s what I want to keep doing.

“Just showing up. It gets really hard, and you can get pretty down on the game. You have quiet weeks, and you have good weeks, but you have to take the good with the bad and Saturday was obviously one of the good days that makes it feel like it’s all worthwhile.”