By Tommy Lyons
Superstar filly Alpha Centauri is amongst the four nominees for the Horse of the Year, one of the prestigious awards to be presented at the annual HRI event, which will take place December 4.
The grey filly, who gave trainer Jessica Harrington her first classic success when winning the Irish 1000 Guineas and went on to win Group 1 contests in three different countries, would be a standout in most years but she faces some stiff competition, including from Cheltenham Festival and Grand National winner Tiger Roll.
The terrifically consistent and thoroughly classy Un De Sceaux, owned by the O’Connell family, Glanmire, and Footpad, who was unbeaten in his novice season, complete the quartet.
Harrington is also nominated for the Flat Award category, where she will take on the formidable O’Brien clan, which dominates the remainder of the nominations.
Recently crowned champion jockey Donnacha picked up the first classic of his career when guiding Saxon Warrior to victory in the Newmarket 2000 Guineas, and later added the Epsom Oaks, both trained by his father, Aidan.
O’Brien senior made it three British classics for the season when winning the Doncaster St Leger with Kew Gardens, and ensured he would not end the home season without a classic when winning the Irish equivalent with Flag Of Honour.
Joseph O’Brien’s nascent training career is going from strength to strength and, after winning the Melbourne Cup in 2017, he made the breakthrough at classic level when taking this year’s Irish Derby with Latrobe.
A vintage year for flat racing means the Flat Achievement is overloaded with worthy winners, with Ken Condon and Shane Foley, both of whom tasted Classic success for the first time, joining first-time Group 1-winning trainer Patrick Prendergast, Group 1-winning jockey Colm O’Donoghue, Royal Ascot winner David Marnane, champion apprentice Shane Crosse and Darren Bunyan, who enjoyed a great year, highlighted the exploits of Meydan winner Hit The Bid.
Leading rider Rachael Blackmore, Cheltenham Festival-winning trainer Pat Kelly, Galway Plate-winning jockey Mark Enright and Gavin Cromwell, a rising star in the training ranks, are up for the National Hunt Achievement, along with Joseph O’Brien, who is in the unique position of possibly picking up both flat and jumps awards.
Horse of the Year: Alpha Centauri, Tiger Roll, Un De Sceaux and Footpad.
National Hunt Award: Willie Mullins, Gordon Elliott, Davy Russell and Patrick Mullins.
National Hunt Achievement: Rachael Blackmore, Pat Kelly, Joseph O’Brien, Mark Enright and Gavin Cromwell.
Flat Award: Aidan O’Brien, Jessica Harrington, Joseph O’Brien and Donnacha O’Brien.
Flat Achievement: Ken Condon, Patrick Prendergast, Colm O’Donoghue, Darren Bunyan, David Marnane and Shane Crosse.
Point-to-Point Award: Liz Lalor, Barry O’Neill, Colin Bowe and Donnchadh Doyle.
Racecourse of the Year: Down Royal, Punchestown, Listowel and Galway Racecourse.
Ride of the Year: To be announced later this week and opened to public vote.