We are pleased to present an interview with Racing Broadcaster & Presenter of the Number 1 Podcast – The Final Furlong, Emmet Kennedy. It has take a while to secure this interview and it was certainly worth the wait….
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself please?
I’m a broadcaster who is now 30 and change (cough cough) and I’m blessed to have been given a start in radio at 16 and my first full-time job hosting an Afternoon Show at 18. I commentated on Poker for Paddy Power Poker, Full-Tilt Poker, Pokerstars and commentated on a TV series for RTE from 2009 to 2015.
I also worked for Cork’s 96FM for 15 years before deciding to go freelance in 2017. I am currently struggling quite badly with back pain – trapped nerve and slipped disc T3 injury and my left hip is out of alinement after a car crash. I joke about it mostly, but it’s very frustrating. I built a home studio and have been working on The Final Furlong Podcast, TalkSPORT, Voice-Overs and some other Radio work from there, which is great. I also do a small bit of consultancy and some TV work.
I’m a huge Horse Racing fan, but outside of that I love watching TV Series and Films. I’m pretty much obsessed with the Marvel Cinematic Universe! I love Cats and Dogs. I’m owned by Two Cats (make no mistake, Cats own you!), I have a garden full of birds, a family of Hedgehogs and occasionally a Fox named Faye comes to visit. I also have an addiction to Foxs Fruits… I’m eating some as I type this.
How long have you been interested in racing & can you remember what sparked your interest?
I’m an only child and my Mother and I didn’t have a whole lot when I was growing up. In those formative years I went through a lot which meant I had to grow up fast. My Mother is the kindest and strongest person I’ve ever met and is always incredibly encouraging and supportive to me. She had to work five jobs when I was in school and one of them was running a bookmakers. I would talk to Mam about what her day in the bookies was like – she was working the day Frankie rode the magnificent seven – and I was fascinated by that side of the industry.
Mam is the youngest of a family of nine and my Uncles are huge racing fans. We would talk about the greats of Racing and watch the big festivals and major races together. So between the ages of 10 and 14 was when my love of Horse Racing began. When we had money, I used to ride show jumpers (badly), but that time spent around Horses was so important to me as I got to see, up-close what incredible animals they are.
I think Sport can provide a great distraction to the pressures of life, and while I love Football – I’m a Liverpool fan – there is nothing that comes close to Horse Racing. It has provided me with so many happy memories over the years, it’s the sport I love most and I feel blessed to be able to talk about it professionally.
When did you first go racing?
The famous Thyestes Chase day at my local track Gowran Park in Kilkenny. Aidan O’Brien had a four timer on the day – which almost certainly kick started my admiration for him! – but the big race went to the UK as Couldnt Be Better won for Graham Bradley. It was a fantastic atmosphere, great craic, plus I got a day off school! I hated school.
What are your thoughts on the standard of racing compared to the Halcyon days of previous years? Or is it simply we look through rose tinted glasses?
I think there’s always an element of looking at the past and harking back to “the good old days”. I’ve learned it’s better to enjoy the moment and look to the future, rather than looking back. There are some serious issues in modern racing, but there were equally problems in previous years.
What we have in Racing is a fantastic product. It’s promoted and featured by two dedicated channels, including one of the biggest broadcasters in the world SKY. In the UK all major races are broadcast on terrestrial TV on ITV and they show Racing every Saturday. We don’t have that in Ireland as RTE only broadcast the big festivals and feature race days (which is still fantastic for fans). There are a websites and apps that provide in-depth analysis, form, stats, opinion pieces, etc. and there are Podcasts that specialise in this great sport. Of course there are problems in Racing, every sport has issues of some kind.
But Horse Racing has all of those promotion platforms and a huge fanbase. We need to stop being so concerned with the thoughts of those outside the Racing bubble and focus on all the good things that this sport has, in particular our equine stars. We can celebrate the past and we can learn from it. We should be focused on how this is an exciting time for Horse Racing, but it’s also a very delicate one. We shouldn’t take the amazing support Horse Racing receives from its fans for granted, neither should we take for granted the men and women who dedicate their lives to working in the sport they love most.
You have been a regular contributor to ATR & have appeared on ITV Racing, how did this come about?
Through The Final Furlong Podcast. I was working in music Radio and Presenting a Sports based show on Sunday afternoons. However, I was frustrated that we weren’t really talking about Racing. I was listening to Football Podcasts like ‘The Game’ from The Times and ‘Football Weekly’ from the Guardian and I really enjoyed them. But there wasn’t anything like that for Racing fans.
So I researched the logistics of Producing and Presenting a Podcast, called Kevin Blake and Noel Hayes, worked out a format and started the show. It started getting traction and was supported by Horse Racing Ireland (which I was thrilled about) and then At The Races approached us. The opportunities that have come my way since are due to my work on the Podcast and our fantastic listeners. I don’t take that for granted and very blessed to get to do what I do. I hope it continues for many more years.
How long have you known Kevin Blake and how did your working together originate?
Kevin and I met at the Curragh back in Nineteen-dickety-two. We got talking about our love of Racing and got on very well. Kev was starting out as a journalist in Racing and I asked him to come on my Radio show to preview big Irish Horse Races. That was so much fun, that he was the first person I called when I thought of doing The Final Furlong Podcast. We’ve been working together since.
You have a successful PODCAST, the Final Furlong, how did this first come about and what were the original aims of the Podcast?
I wanted to talk about Racing, but as I said earlier, there wasn’t any Racing Podcasts that were reviewing, previewing and getting stuck into the big stories. I wanted to create a show that felt relaxed, like it’s a conversation down the pub. It had to be informative and entertaining. I hope that people hear it like that and enjoy it as much as I enjoy recording it.
Have you been surprised by the success of the Final Furlong?
Stunned! I don’t really know what my “aim” was. But I couldn’t possibly have imagined that when I started the show it would grow into being one of the most listened to sports programs in the UK and Ireland. I’m still stunned to this day when I see it performing well on Apple Podcasts and the SoundCloud charts.
Thats mainly due to our incredible listeners who have told family, friends, colleagues and other Racing fans to listen to us ramble on twice a week, who have shared the Pod on social media, come to our live shows and interacted with us on Twitter and Facebook. I’m so very grateful to everyone for the support.
You have had some quality guests, from Nick Luck to John Dance… But who would be the ULTIMATE Final Furlong Guest?
We have had some fantastic guests on the show and I’m currently working on a new project which will hopefully see much more interviews. But if I could get anyone on the Pod… it would have to be Aidan O’Brien. He’s a genius. He was breaking records long before he was handed the keys to Ballydoyle and he has trained so many superstars. He’s the guest I’d most like to chat to.
The whip issue has again become a focus for racing, what is your take on what Charlie Fellowes wrote?
I said this on Twitter the other day, but I really am concerned about the nonchalance from some in the industry towards the whip, especially the Racing Post. They are the Sports trade-paper, but for some reason they appear to be presenting a very one sided argument on this subject and they continue to push the narrative that “this is a debate”. It isn’t.
For example, this is not a serious topic in Ireland. We have seen some unseemly sights regarding whip use, but these are very much in the minority and whenever there is an issue the BHA deal with it, and those responsible get called out for it in the media and on Twitter.
There are extremist groups who want to ban Horse Racing and they’ll do everything they can to highlight any negative press in Racing to suit their agenda. If the whip was banned, it would open the door for these so called “welfare groups” to call for an all-out ban on Racing. They would use a whip ban as the authorities admitting that there is a welfare issue in racing and they would’t stop until they’ve wiped the sport out.
The whip is NOT a welfare issue and 97% of Race Horses are treated better than some humans. People dedicate their lives to Racing just so they can work with Horses everyday. The BHA need to demonstrate strong and clear leadership on this matter, because the slightest misstep from them could have serious unintended consequences.
Do you think the end is nigh for the whip or Is there simply a case for more Hands n Heels races?
Frankie’s ride on Enable was poetry in motion, but it was also an example that you don’t have to use the whip excessively. But, thats because Enable has the ability and mindset to respond to Frankie’s urgings. Every horse is different, just like every jockeys style is unique to them. Banning the whip would be detrimental to the sport, but also it would be a safety issue.
Has Irish racing shot itself in the foot when agreeing the deal with RTV?
To be fair, they agreed a deal with SIS who then sold the rights to RTV, so the situation is more nuanced than that. Anything I say on this subject is going to be perceived to be biased, but I have the best interests of Irish Racing at heart. Watching SKY Sports News last week, they ran regular promos for SKY Sports Racing’s coverage of The King George at Ascot. No matter how good a job RTV do, they can never give Irish Racing that large a platform and that level of exposure.
Irish Racing behind a paywall is far from ideal, and the race clashes are very frustrating as a viewer. Irish Horse Racing is a fantastic product. It should probably be our national sport and it deserves to be seen by as many people as possible. I fear thats not the case now, but the last thing I want to do is throw stones at the HRI or RTV. This is the situation and everyone has to make the best of it. That said, I do think Irish Racing would be in a stronger position on SKY and it would be given the full coverage and exposure it so rightfully deserves.
And finally, can you tell us your favourite horse(Past or Present) and the best race you have ever seen?
That’s a tough question as there have been so many Horses that have provided some brilliant memories like Kauto Star, Best Mate, Limestone Lad, Moscow Flyer and Yeats. But, I’d have to pick Hurricane Fly as my favourite. He was a phenomenal horse, the world record holder for Grade 1 wins over jumps with 22. He had so much class but also so much character. His two Champion Hurdle wins were obviously special, but it was his five Irish Champion Hurdle wins that makes his standout as an all time great.
As for the best race, I’d have to say High Chaparral’s dead-heat in his second Breeders Cup Turf. That race had so much drama and a brilliant soundtrack with Tom Durkin’s epic commentary. I’ll never forget watching that race with my Mother who had her hands over her eyes such was the tension. Mam is still like that watching Racing today! It was a truly epic race.
A big thanks to Emmet for his time to do this for us, we wish you a speedy recovery and all the best for the Podcast & your career going forward.
Pictures – Emmet Kennedy
Interview by Rich Williams