by Grant Morgan
One of the many ‘hats’ I’ve worn in racing was riders agent or ‘jockey manager'. It’s fair to say that Arron Kennedy was one of my more ‘colourful’ clients.
Arron was champion Sydney apprentice in 1991/1992 while indentured to Randwick trainer Bob Thomsen. He matched it with the likes of Mick Dittman, Brian York and Shane Dye in their prime, and more than held his own in the toughest jockey room in Australia, if not the world.
One of Arron’s finest days was winning the 1993 Group 1 Chipping Norton Stakes aboard the Kiwi galloper Kingston Bay. He survived a protest from runner up Glen Boss, who was aboard the grand Queensland galloper Kinjite. Planet Ruler (another top horse with Queensland roots) was in third, with the late Ken Russell aboard.
It's well documented that Arron had his demons. He battled drug addiction and alcoholism for much of his adult life. This earned him the wrath of stewards and ‘the boys in blue’ on many occasions.
After losing a house, a marriage and the opportunity to be a good father, Arron found his way to the Gold Coast leaving his home town of Sydney behind.
For a couple of seasons, Arron became the new “King of the Coast” with me in tow as his manager.
Very few Gold Coast race meetings passed by without Arron winning 3,4 or even 5 races on an eight race card.
Arron had an awkward, but effective riding style which made him almost impossible to get past. Arron seemed to pick them up when all looked lost. He was particularly dominant in distance races and at his prime, was an incredible judge of pace.
Each week I found it tough to fend off trainers wanting to engage Arron at the Gold Coast. John Wallace, Kelso Wood, Bryan Guy and Kelly Schweida were all among his greatest supporters, but none greater than Lesley Dennett. But that’s another story, for another time.
Arron claimed the 2002/2003 Gold Coast Jockeys title. This meant a great deal to Arron who had a stirring battle with Chris Whiteley to take out the premiership.
I think Arron and I formed a great relationship. Others wondered how on earth I could manage him, with that view formed by inaccurate pre-conceptions. But we formed a very good combination and trusted each others abilities. We became very good friends, and I can’t recall a cross word between us.
Through a series of downward spirals, Arron’s demons rose back to the surface and eventually claimed him in 2007.
I often think about Arron and wonder what could have been. Some of that thought process always involves ‘could I have done more?’
I also worry about the young jockeys out there facing similar demons. I worry that we aren’t doing enough for them.
Recently I was able to become involved as a sponsor on the ‘Men Matter’ Raceday at the Gold Coast which will be held this year on Saturday 9 April, 2022.
The day has been driven by Gold Coast Chairman Brett Cook and is designed to shine light on the mental health of men, along with solutions and assistance for depression in men.
The programme will feature the running of the Arron Kennedy Memorial, in what I hope will be an annual event at the track Arron loved so much.
Remembering Arron Kennedy (4/2/73 to 17/3/2007). RIP Buddy.
Photos thanks to Grant Peters & Steve Hart