DEDICATION was the word on everyone’s lips when Kevin Manning was presented with the Irish Racing Hero Award on Monday night.
The 55-year-old flat jockey retired in October, announcing the decision in typically understated fashion as he dismounted from a winner at a low-key fixture.
Manning spent his entire 40-year career with trainer Jim Bolger. He was twice champion apprentice and rode 36 Group 1 winners, including Derbys at Epsom and the Curragh, plus an unforgettable Hong Kong Cup victory.
He told co-host Nina Carberry: “I had some great days, rode some wonderful horses. If I had to pick one, it would be the Irish Derby on Trading Leather. That was the one I really wanted to win.”
Jim Bolger described him as “a top jockey, very strong in a finish, always seemed to be in the right place, and terribly reliable.” He added: “I didn’t know about his retirement plan until after it happened but I’m glad he’s happy with his decision and that he got out in one piece.”
Michael Kinane felt that Manning’s greatest day came in Hong Kong when he partnered Alexander Goldrun to win the Cup. Kinane remembered crossing swords with Manning as an apprentice “but we became great friends over the years and we’ve had great times together, usually on the Shannon or shooting.”
Johnny Murtagh also remembered Manning’s apprentice days. “He was a big lad, the weights were lower than they are now. You would see Kevin in the sauna or out running the track. He is the most dedicated jockey I know.
“I said to him the other day ‘enjoy your couple of months off’ because Kevin is a worker and he will have to find something to do. There is only so much golf you can play or shooting you can do. He will need to do something. I think he is made for training!”
Ruby Walsh added: “To go for that long on a diet shows great dedication. For his humility, professionalism and manners, he is a role model for everyone.”