This season there are several jockeys new to Canterbury Park. One sure to make an impact is Ty Kennedy. His professional riding career began in 2014 but his destiny was determined long before that as he had uncles and a grandfather in the business. Horse racing began calling him at an early age. “I was always around the barn as long as I can remember,” Kennedy said. He grew up in Kansas but each summer as soon as school was out he would be in Iowa with family. “I’d run around Prairie Meadows as a kid,” he said.
Even though he wanted to ride, it was instilled in Ty early on by his uncle that cleaning stalls and brushing horses, the chores that teach one an appreciation for the horses, needed to come first. That appreciation for those behind the scenes is evident. “When I’m riding and I know I’m not winning I’m still trying to finish second or third or fifth, the best I can, because even if it doesn’t mean as much to me, it means something to someone. The grooms in a 24-hour day probably spend 18 or 19 hours with the horses. It’s important to them.”
Ty got his first groom job at Prairie Meadows working for Ray Ashford. One summer he spent on a Michigan horse farm, preparing young horses with veteran trainer Richard Retelle. “Richard told me if you can make it at the farm, you can make it anywhere. He wasn’t lying,” Kennedy said.
Once in, it is not easy to leave the racing industry. “I started a little later as a rider than what might be traditional,” he said. “When I graduated high school my mom wanted me to give college a try so I went to Kansas State.” That did not last long. “I told her it was time to go back to the track.”
Ty has now ridden at 27 tracks by his calculation. He has ridden amongst and for the best at tracks like Keeneland and Del Mar. Along the way he has made many friends, people he keeps in touch with and with whom he inevitably crosses paths from time to time. He has settled in at Canterbury, enjoying the friendliness of the people and the fans. “They like their horseracing here,” he said. “I can see Canterbury being a place I return to.”