THE Association of Irish Racehorse Owners presented its National Hunt Awards for 2021 at Punchestown last Sunday.

Sponsored by HRI Ownership, the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association and The Irish Field, the ceremony had to be postponed last December due to social restrictions but full credit to AIRO for persisting and making sure the award winners had their success acknowledged.

To mark the occasion, the AIRO and HRI Ownership also sponsored the stable staff canteen for the day.

Caren Walsh, AIRO director and chair of the awards committee, welcomed connections to the pre-racing lunch and reassured those present that the Association was committed to working with all stakeholders towards improving the racing experience, particularly for owners.

Copies of the latest AIRO glossy magazine were distributed and owners were invited to contact office manager Regina Byrne with any queries.

The awards themselves took an unusual form in the shape of paintings by Jason O’Ceannobháin. The Celbridge-based artist works primarily in acrylic, pencil and charcoal, and his racehorse paintings have been very well-received.

Kieran McManus was certainly impressed with the painting he received on behalf of his father, J.P., the leading owner. The portrait featured Grand National winner Minella Times, along with Grade 1 winners Chantry House and Janidil.

Kenny Alexander’s racing manager Peter Molony was on hand to accept yet another prize won by Honeysuckle, deemed the champion NH horse of last year. Still unbeaten and already the winner of three Irish Champion Hurdles, the mare is rightly being hailed as one of the all-time greats.

Peter’s daughter Kate stepped in to accept an award on behalf of Barry Maloney, owner of Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Minella Indo. The gelding was bought for just €24,000 as a foal at Tattersalls Ireland.

The syndicate which owns top staying hurdler Flooring Porter was well represented. The Cheltenham Festival winner went through the Goffs sales ring for just €6,000 before being acquired privately by current connections.

Colreevy is due to produce her first foal soon and her exploits on the track were recognised with the owner-breeder award going to Claire and Niall Flynn. Colreevy won all five of her starts over fences last season and they include a Cheltenham Festival success and a Grade 1 victory at the Punchestown Festival.

The Skyace story has been told many times. Picked up for just £600, she has since five races for her UAE-based owners, the Birdinthehand Syndicate, including a Grade 1 win at the Fairyhouse Easter Festival. Winner of the syndicate/racing club award, connections are hopeful the mare will race again, having picked up two chips to her knee in a race at Sandown last month.

Irish Grand National winner Freewheelin Dylan was another very inexpensive purchase and won the Racing Dream award for owner Sheila Mangan.

A special award was presented to Dr Jennifer Pugh in acknowledgement of the enormous efforts made by her and her team to devise and implement the protocols which helped keep racing going during Covid-19, and also enabled Irish horses to compete at Cheltenham and Aintree.



NH award winners

Leading Owner: J.P. McMANUS

Champion Horse: HONEYSUCKLE (Kenny Alexander)

Value Purchase at Tatt Ireland: MINELLA INDO

(Barry Maloney)

Value Purchase at Goffs:


(Flooring Porter Syndicate)

Owner/Breeder: COLREEVY

(Claire and Niall Flynn)

Syndicate/Racing Club: SKYACE (Birdinthehand Syndicate)

Racing Dream: FREEWHEELIN DYLAN (Sheila Mangan)

Services to the Industry:


The flat awards were presented at Naas Racecourse on October 31st

PHOTOS: Regina Byrne