'It's Given Dad A New Lease Of Life' – How Crystal Black Has Provided Gerry Keane With Boost After Horror Fall

Crystal Black: the Royal Ascot winner could be bound for the Melbourne Cup | Racingfotos.com

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After lighting up Royal Ascot, a tilt at the Melbourne Cup could be on the cards for Crystal Black (Ire) (Teofilo {Ire}), with Ireland's reigning champion jockey Colin Keane explaining how the gelding has provided his father “with a new lease of life” after a horror fall in 2021 almost left the trainer paralysed. 

The celebrations that followed Crystal Black's victory in the Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes at Ascot went unrivalled as the Wear A Pink Ribbon Syndicate who own the former Dermot Weld-trained inmate burst into song in the winner's enclosure shortly after the success. 

Such scenes are now likely to be reenacted Down Under, with the father and son duo agreeing that Crystal Black could develop into a genuine contender for the Melbourne Cup. 

Gerry said, “The boys are talking big-they're talking about the Melbourne Cup and everything. The Ebor has been mentioned as well but we'll have to see what the handicapper does. He has to be a black-type horse now anyway.”

He added, “I don't know whether we start thinking about travelling with him or thinking about stakes races here. He can go either way with the trip-I think he can go up or down. There are loads of options with him so we will let him freshen up this week and have a chat together in a few days but Melbourne could be an option.”

Colin agrees.

“He definitely could be a Melbourne Cup horse,” the rider said. “Every time we step him up in trip it seems to bring about more improvement in him. The only slight worry I had for him heading to Ascot was the ground. I wasn't sure how he'd handle the quick ground. But riding him out in the mornings before the race, he was like a ballerina on the surface.”

Not only did Ireland's five-time champion jockey deliver another top-notch performance in the saddle to notch his second Royal Ascot success, but he can also be credited for sourcing his father's stable star on behalf of the owners, for whom he built up a good relationship with through the Willie Mullins-trained globetrotter True Self some years previously. That's how this whole fairytale started.

Gerry explained, “I have to credit Colin for finding the horse. He had ridden True Self for the lads a couple of years before this and they asked him to keep an eye out for a horse. When Alan Fleming gave up training, they sent me a filly called Baby Bubbles but she had bits and pieces of problems and wasn't much good. 

“We sent her home and I actually didn't think we'd hear from them again after that. But when this horse came up, Colin rang Neville [Edgar, the syndicate leader] to tell them that he thought Crystal Black might suit them. Neville said to go and get him bought so that's how it all came about. They went and bought another one off Dermot Weld last year as well. Genuine Article is his name. He's a nice horse–he just wants an ease in the ground.”

He added, “We're used to fighting it out in 0-65s. I thought I'd never have a better horse than Laughifuwant but now this lad has come along. Small trainers don't normally get horses like this. “It's all about the horse. No trainer will get a bad horse to win but most fellas will train a good one. It is a good feeling to know that, now that I have a good horse, I've done the right thing and brought him along the right way. It gives you a bit of confidence.”

The emergence of Crystal Black as a flagbearer for the Keane stable comes just three years after the 68-year-old suffered a horrific fall at home on the gallops. The trainer still wears the scars of that morning and can't get around without using a walking stick but there were genuine fears of a much worse outcome at the time. 

“I've had a rough couple of years,” Gerry admitted. “I had a very bad fall and I still walk with a limp but I'm lucky not to be in a wheelchair from it. It was one of those stupid falls, where a horse ducked off the gallop, but I landed on my back and ended up bruising my spinal cord. If I had fractured it, I was gone. 

“'I'm 68 years of age now and, I'd say if I wasn't as fit as I was when it happened, it would have been a lot worse. I'm very lucky because the family kept the place going when I was out of action. I used to ride out four or five lots every morning but, between James Hyland, Frankie Duffy, obviously Colin and the rest of my family, they kept it going.”

According to Colin, a good horse can prove a perfect tonic, and in Crystal Black, Gerry has plenty to look forward to. 

He said, “I thought he was a lovely horse when we bought him but I didn't think he'd end up being a Royal Ascot winner for us. I know it was only a handicap that he won last week but Royal Ascot is one of the hardest places in the world to win a race. The lads involved in Crystal Black are such lucky people, and are extremely down to earth as well. I don't know if that has anything to do with it but the horse has just transformed for them.”

Colin added, “It was very hard when Dad got the fall. It was very hard for everyone because nobody really knew what was happening. It was a simple fall. I wasn't there the morning of the fall but I can only imagine the fright he got. We got an awful fright when we heard about it so I can only imagine what was running through his head.

“He's been a great horse for Dad. He still complains about how bad he is after the fall but it could have been a lot worse! This horse has given him a new lease of life. To have a horse like Crystal Black in the yard, even getting up to go out and see him in the yard every day. It's definitely been a big help.” 

 

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