Jack Kennedy: "Words can't describe what it feels like"

The 17-year-old Kerry native won the first race of the Cheltenham Festival

Jack Kennedy

Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Kerry native Jack Kennedy was on board the first winner of the 2017 Cheltenham Festival as he steered 25-1 shot Labaik to victory in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle.

The 17-year-old was overcome with joy after the race as his horse stayed on to claim his first ever winner at a festival.

"It's absolutely brilliant," he told Racing UK. "Words can't describe what it feels like. I'm just very grateful to Gordon [Elliot, trainer] and the owners for putting me back up on him after Naas when he didn't jump off and for keeping faith in the horse.

"Walking onto the track, he was having a think about things, but I gave him a little kick in the belly and he went on then. Everything was straightforward from there. He jumped off with them and jumped and travelled great. I couldn't have gone any better."

Kennedy got his tactics spot on, even if he felt Labaik started to mistime his charge over the final stretch.

"I had one or two behind me early on. He jumped brilliant and was forced a bit wide. I got a clear run and made it to the last. He pricked his ears and I thought 'I'm here a bit soon'. To be fair to him, he dug deep and kept going. 

"I can't believe it. It's brilliant. I'm over the moon.

"Everyone wants more but I'll be going home a very happy lad at the end of the week, whatever way things go now."

Labaik ridden by Jack Kennedy comes home to win the first race of the day. Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan