By Matt Stewart, Racing Editor
When jeweller James Kennedy and horse whisperer Monty Roberts came to the RSN studio last year to launch Kennedy Racing, some listeners were probably left scratching their heads.
It all sounded good in theory; horse training based heavily on animal welfare, a stance against the whip, a focus on the physical and mental relationship between trainer and horse, revolutionary ideas about feeding and training.
It seemed the perfect approach at the time, where welfare issues had been exposed on ABC 7.30 and elsewhere, and even more so now, given the industry is grappling with yet another international fatality in the Melbourne Cup.
But Kennedy Racing also seemed a bit dreamy.
Would such methods make Kennedy Racing competitive, or would it wallow in idealism?
Over a year on, on the racetrack, where theory is put into practice, Kennedy Racing is making its mark.
A small stable of Roberts-selected horses prepared at Pakenham is growing and airborne.
It’s head trainer Caroline Jennings has posted five winners from her last six runners, including impressive recent winners Written Miss (Pakenham) and Arabian Hussey (Sandown).
Whatever Kennedy and the Roberts-educated Jennings are doing, it’s working.
Speaking on RSN’s The Verdict this morning, Irish-born Jennings said a key focus was “on the behaviour of the animal and making sure they’re happy and they’re well.”
“There’s probably a few bits and pieces we do a little bit differently, like barrier work … (we just) keep looking for what’s working, attention to detail and celebrate when we get things wrong because that’s when you get the information to get things right,” she said.
Jennings said the key was to “read the horses, what they need physically but also mentally and behaviourally.”
Jennings had hobby horses a teenager, studied Equine Biomechanics at Uni in the UK and then worked in California for Roberts, before graduating in the famous “Horse Whisperer’s” management diploma and then touring the world with Roberts, teaching his methods.
It included stints here, after begging Roberts “cane I come, can I come?”, work at some leading studs and also a stint working for Gai Waterhouse in Sydney.
She then became involved in this intriguing new enterprise, Kennedy Racing. All the horses have been endorsed by Roberts, with quirky observations.