Ruby Walsh and Pat Smullen were the stars at last night’s Horse Racing Ireland Awards, each receiving the Racing Hero Award.
Nine-time Flat champion Smullen hung up his boots in early May and was then central to a celebrated fundraising campaign for pancreatic cancer trials, culminating with the Pat Smullen Champions Race for Cancer Trials Ireland at the Curragh.
Walsh retired from the saddle with Grade 1 success at the Punchestown Festival. Crowned National Hunt jockey on a record 12 occasions, his record in big jump races around the globe was second to none.
The winning-most rider at Cheltenham, Walsh was leading rider at the Festival on 11 occasions and retired with a record 59 winners at the meeting to his name.
Like Smullen, he enjoyed tremendous success the world over.
There was little surprise when Tiger Roll was announced as the winner of the Horse of the Year Award. A star for many seasons, he created his own history when winning the Aintree Grand National for the second consecutive year, that victory coming hot on the heels a fourth Cheltenham Festival success.
Rachael Blackmore, who finished runner-up in the jockeys’ championship, with a total of 90 winners, and rode two winners at the Cheltenham Festival, including Grade 1 winner Minella Indo, picked up the National Hunt Award, while the National Hunt Achievement Award went to Gavin Cromwell, who saddled Cheltenham Champion Hurdle winner Espoir D’Allen.
The Flat Award went to Jessica Harrington, who recorded her best ever tally and had a particularly good season with her juvenile fillies, most notably Group 1 winners Albigna and Millisle.
Cork jockey Wayne Lordan received the Flat Achievement Award, his season including victory in the Newmarket 1000 Guineas aboard Hermosa and a first Breeders’ Cup success, aboard Iridessa.
Another Cork jockey to received recognition for a brilliant season was Darragh O’Keeffe, who took the Emerging Talent Award.
He rode out his claim when winning the Cork National aboard The Gatechecker, having ridden his first winner just 16 months previously.
Billy Lee’s ride aboard Space Traveller in the Boomerang Stakes on Champions Weekend was voted the best of the year, while Naas picked up the Racecourse of the Year accolade and journalist Tony O’Hehir was recognised with the Contribution to the Industry Award.
Colin Bowe, who has dominated the training ranks within point-to-pointing for much of the last decade, took the Point to Point Award.
The winners of the 17th annual awards were:
Irish Racing Hero Award: Pat Smullen & Ruby Walsh
Contribution to the Industry Award: Tony O’Hehir
Horse of the Year Award: Tiger Roll
Emerging Talent Award: Darragh O’Keeffe
National Hunt Award: Rachael Blackmore
National Hunt Achievement Award: Gavin Cromwell
Flat Award: Jessica Harrington
Flat Achievement Award: Wayne Lordan
Point-to-Point Award: Colin Bowe
Ride of the Year Award: Billy Lee
Racecourse of the Year Award: Naas Racecourse