Article Date: 30-April-2012
Another great year for Irish National Hunt racing was celebrated last night (Sunday) at the annual Irish National Hunt Awards dinner which was held in the Dunboyne Castle Hotel in Co Meath.
The awards dinner which is organised by the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Committee was attended by over 200 guests from the world of Irish National Hunt. In all 13 awards were presented on the evening.
Among those honoured on the night were leading riders Davy Russell and Nina Carberry; jockey, Barry Geraghty; the connections of Lion Na Bearnai; and leading owner, JP McManus.
Davy Russell who previously had been runner-up five times in the jockey’s championship finally took top spot. Among the highlights of what was a special year for him were the wins at both Cheltenham and Punchestown with Sir Des Champs, in the process installing the horse as favourite for next year’s Gold Cup.
Nina Carberry was the leading Lady Rider for the eighth year in succession – making it ten National Hunt Awards in all as she had previously won two as leading Amateur Rider titles. The citation for her award noted her remarkable consistency over such a long period of time.
Jockeys were very much to the fore of this year’s awards with Barry Geraghty receiving the National Hunt Special Award. Geraghty, who has built up a remarkable partnership with trainer Nicky Henderson had an exceptional year which included him being crowned Leading Rider at both the Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals. His wins at both festivals on Sprinter Sacre were noted in the citation.
JP McManus was presented with the Contribution to the Industry award for his outstanding contributions to Irish National Hunt racing over many years. JP also received a second award as the Leading Owner during the year.
The Special Recognition award for 2011/2012 went to Tramore Racecourse which this year celebrates its centenary. Tramore has a special place in Irish racing history as the venue to host one of the first ever festival meetings in Ireland.
The Special Achievement award for the year went to the connections of Lion Na Bearnai, the winner of this year’s Irish Grand National. The Mullins family made it five doubles in a row with Willie Mullins taking two awards for his training exploits and his son, Patrick, taking the Leading National Hunt Qualified Rider award for the fifth year in succession.
Other awards went to Mrs Frankie Ward (Point to Point); Peter Casey’s yard (Stable Staff) and Paddy Mangan (Leading Claiming Professional).
Speaking at the awards William Flood, senior steward of the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Committee, congratulated all the winners. In speaking of champion jockey Davy Russell, he noted that he had started his illustrious riding career in point to points before switching to the paid ranks. He said he was delighted to see him win the championship given the fact that he had been pipped for the title on five previous occasions.
Speaking about National Hunt racing in general he said that the season had proved conclusively that National Hunt racing is not the preserve of the big owner or trainer. He said that this season had seen smaller teams achieving notable success at the highest level.
He particularly noted Oliver McKiernan’s exploits in being responsible for the only Irish trained winner at this year’s Aintree Festival winning the Grade 1 Betfair Bowl Chase with Follow The Plan, the horse’s second Grade 1 success within a year under the care of Oliver.
He also noted that Irish Grand National winner Lion Na Bearnai had been trained by Tom Gibney who again operates locally with a small team of horses. In the same vein he noted Peter Casey who had produced Flemenstar to win two top Grade 1 novice chase events.
He said that while Cheltenham may not have matched 2011’s record haul of 13 victories he felt that this year had again been a very good Cheltenham Festival. Not alone had Irish horses won on five occasions but Irish horses also filled the runners-up spot on 12 occasions.
In concluding he pointed to the continuing importance of Point to Point racing noting that a number of this season’s festival winners came from Point to Point, with four of its graduates winning Grade 1 races at the Cheltenham Festival and four more tasting Grade 1 success at Aintree.
Full report and lots of photos from the night in The Irish Field next Saturday. Online from 10.30pm Friday
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