Faugheen and Don Cossack share top HRI award

In a ceremony presented by outspoken broadcaster and former minister Ivan Yates, it was the possessor of another distinctive, equally familiar and similarly ebullient voice, course commentator Dessie Scahill, whose contribution the racing industry was celebrated at the annual Horse Racing Ireland Awards yesterday afternoon at Leopardstown Pavilion.
Faugheen and Don Cossack share top HRI award

Scahill, renowned as the voice of racing in Ireland since the passing of the late great Micheal O’Hehir, begin his career in racing as apprentice to Dermot Weld’s father, Charlie, but has since become an institution for his services as a race-caller.

His distinctive tones have called countless races over the years, but it was the oft-recounted commentary of Dawn Run’s famous victory in the 1986 Cheltenham Gold Cup, broadcast on RTÉ Radio, which is, perhaps, most fondly remembered.

The North County Dublin native received a well-deserved standing ovation as he received the award previously bestowed upon Mick O’Toole, Jim Bolger, Moyglare Stud, Dermot Weld, Colm Murray and Mick Kinane.

If Scahill represents the past and present, young ride Jonathan Burke is very much the future of the sport, and the teenager scooped the Outstanding Achievement Award for a remarkable season, highlighted by his successes aboard Sizing John in the Grade 1 Future Champions’ Novice Hurdle, on Sizing Granite in the Grade 1 Melling Chase at Aintree, and Shanahan’s Turn in the Galway Plate.

For this award, uniquely voted for by the public, the 19 years mature Burke thanked his father, Curraglass trainer Liam, and his sister and ‘campaign manager’ Amy for their continued support, before dedicating the award to his late mother, whose 14th anniversary it will be on Saturday.

History was made in the much-coveted Horse of the Year Award when a dead-heat had to be declared between Champion Hurdler Faugheen and highest rated chaser Don Cossack.

Just last month the Willie Mullins-trained Faugheen lost his unbeaten record when touched off by stable companion and fellow nominee Nichols Canyon, but it was the only blip on a season which yielded three successive Grade 1 wins.

An unlucky defeat at Cheltenham was the only hiccup in an otherwise perfect year for the Gordon Elliott-trained, Gigginstown House Stud-owned Don Cossack, who finished last season as the top-rated chaser in these islands, following his defeat of Gold Cup runner-up Djakadam at Punchestown. The Cheltenham Gold Cup hope

When asked, by Yates, why he chose to have all of his horses trained here in Ireland, Faugheen’s owner, Rich Ricci, quipped: “You sound like Paul Nicholls.”

Inevitably, and for the sixth time, Willie Mullins picked up the National Hunt Award.

Ten Grade 1 successes at the Punchestown Festival and a record-breaking eight winners at the Cheltenham Festival contributed to a season which yielded 30 top-grade victories for the remarkable handler.

Safe to assume it won’t be the last time the award heads back to Closutton.

Jockey Pat Smullen, who claimed the flat jockeys’ championship for the eighth time, with a tally of 103 winners, was the recipient of the Flat Award.

His long association with leading trainer Dermot Weld has seldom been less than prolific but the 38-year-old Co Offaly rider admitted the season just gone has been their best to date, and is looking forward to many more in the years ahead.

And a profitable year could yet get better as Price Of Wales’ Stakes winner Free Eagle is favourite to land next weekend’s Hong Kong Cup at Sha Tin.

Trainer Enda Bolger picked up the Point to Point Award for the expert handling of hunter chaser On The Fringe, who made history when winning the Foxhunters’ Chase at Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown, ridden on each occasion by Nina Carberry.

The Co Limerick-based Bolger was a record-breaking point to point rider in his day, and trained and rode Elegant Lord to win the Foxhunters Chase at Cheltenham in 1996.

The exploits of Risk Of Thunder, Garde Champetre and Spot Thedifference, amongst a host of others, have seen him make a seamless transition to the training ranks.

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