Training great Dessie Hughes dies

Training great Dessie Hughes dies

Training great Dessie Hughes has died, aged 71.

He enjoyed huge success not only in the training ranks but also as a jockey, riding Monksfield to win the Champion Hurdle in 1979 and also saddling Hardy Eustace to victory in the Cheltenham Festival highlight in 2004 and 2005.

Hughes, who had been battling illness, is survived by his wife Eileen, son and three-time champion Flat jockey Richard and daughter Sandra.

Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland, tweeted: “RIP Dessie Hughes. A great trainer, great jockey and an absolute gentleman. Sympathies to Eileen, Richard and Sandra.”

Conor O’Dwyer, who rode Hardy Eustace in both his Champion Hurdle triumphs, said: “There’s gentlemen and then there was Dessie Hughes.

“I’ve ridden for many good people during my career, but Dessie really stood out as a proper gentleman.

“We had some brilliant times together, some of the best times of my career. No one ever had a bad word to say about Dessie, and Dessie never had a bad word to say about anyone.

“He’d had some hard times, but he’d come through and seemed to be enjoying the best of his career. It’s a sad day for everyone and for racing.”

Eddie O'Leary, racing manager for leading owners Gigginstown House Stud, who had horses with Hughes, said: "He was a fantastic trainer and a lovely man. He was a true gent. He will be sorely and deeply missed by all in racing."

He added that Thunder Of Roses would not run at Punchestown today as a mark of respect to Mr Hughes.

Paul Hensey, general manager at the Curragh racecourse, said: "He was a gentleman through and through.

“He was a great trainer, a great rider and he was on our Curragh trainers liaison committee for some time. It was always a great pleasure to deal with him and to work for.

“It’s very sad for his family and everybody who has worked for him.”

When Hughes drove Monksfield to victory in the 1979 Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, the partnership withstood the challenge of Sea Pigeon, ridden by Jonjo O'Neill, by three-quarters of a length.

O’Neill, a highly-successful trainer at Jackdaws Castle himself, tweeted: “So sad to hear of passing of Dessie Hughes. We had some great tussles in the past and he was a lovely man.”

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