AWARDS season in Irish racing kicked off last Sunday when the Association of Irish Racehorse Owners [AIRO] presented nine awards at Naas Racecourse.

The Irish Field, Irish Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association and Horse Racing Ireland’s Ownership department were the sponsors.

Like so many social events, this ceremony was unable to be staged in 2020 and, with restrictions easing now, the AIRO took the opportunity to present its flat season awards on the final day of the turf campaign. The National Hunt awards will be presented at Punchestown on December 5th.

Introduced by MC Brendan McArdle, the Association’s acting chairman David Hyland welcomed guests and mentioned how busy the AIRO has been during Covid. New manager Regina Byrne is now well settled into the role, the Association is now a company limited by guarantee, it has a new constitution and some new directors.

“Our doors are open to all ideas,” he said. “The dedication that owners have shown to the racing industry over the past 18 months has been tremendous and we’d like to take this opportunity to than each and every one of them for their support.”

The award winners were decided by a smaller committee which included some Racing TV presenters. To mark the return of the annual awards, the Association sponsored meal vouchers for stable staff on the day.

Jim and Jackie Bolger were among the guests present and Jackie stepped forward to accept the Flat Special Achievement Award from The Irish Field’s Leo Powell. The award was in recognition of this year’s classic winners Poetic Flare and Mac Swiney. Not only did the Bolgers own and breed these brilliant colts, they bred the sires, the dams and the grandams!

This year’s leading flat owner Sue Magnier was represented by Jamie Moriarty, who received the award from HRI’s interim CEO Suzanne Eade. Together with Derrick Smith, Michael Tabor and Georg von Opel (Westerberg), the Magnier name was attached to plenty of big-race winners again in 2021, headed by St Mark’s Basilica who won four Group 1 races and was deemed champion flat horse. The Noel Meade-trained Helvic Dream upset the Coolmore hotpot Broome in the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup and that giant-killing success was recognised when Helvic Dream’s owners Caroline Hendron and Mairéad Cahill received the Flat Value Purchase at Tattersalls Award from Amber Byrne of HRI Owners. Helvic Dream was a €12,000 purchase at the Tattersalls Ireland September Yearling Sale.

Laws Of Indices was a worthy winner of the Flat Value Purchase at Goffs award – he probably would have won the award in 2020 if there had been an award, so it was just as well he waited until 2021 to win his Group 1.

Picked up for a mere €8,000 at the Goffs Autumn Yearling Sale, Laws Of Indices won the Prix Jean Prat this year for trainer Ken Condon. Accepting the award was new mum Charlotte Holmes, who is married to auctioneer Andrew Nolan. A 50% share in Laws Of Indices was recently sold to Australian interests and the horse is continuing his racing career down under.

Gilltown Stud manager Pat Downes was on hand to receive the Owner/Breeder Award from ITBA chairman John McEnery on behalf of the Aga Khan, whose mare Tarnawa leads the Irish challenge at Del Mar this evening. Already this year Tarnawa has gone close in both the Irish Champion Stakes and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

Sonnyboyliston has had better luck in running than Tarnawa this year, coming out on top in close finishes to both the Ebor Handicap at York and the Irish St Leger at the Curragh. What an amazing success story he has been for his owners, the Kildare Racing Club, whose leader Liam Clarke accepted the Racing Club Award from John McEnery of the ITBA.

Patrick Moyles made the three-hour drive from Crossmolina in Co Mayo to pick up the Flat Racing Dream Award. He is the owner of Logo Hunter, bought out of training for just 5,000gns and now one of the top sprinters in the country, having defeated subsequent Group 1 winner A Case Of You before a minor setback curtailed his season.

There was also a special award for Brian Kavanagh, to make his contribution to Irish racing during his 20 years as chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland. Brian started his new job as CEO of the Curragh Racecourse on Monday.

Award winners

Leading Flat Owner: Sue Magnier

Champion Flat Horse: Derrick Smith, Sue Magnier and Michael Tabor (St Mark’s Basilica)

Flat Value Purchase at Tattersalls Ireland: Caroline Hendron & Mairéad Cahill (Helvic Dream)

Flat Value Purchase at Goffs: Charlotte Holmes (Laws Of Indices)

Flat Owner/Breeder: HH Aga Khan (Tarnawa)

Flat Syndicate/Racing Club: Kildare Racing Club (Sonnyboyliston)

Flat Racing Dream: Patrick Moyles (Logo Hunter)

Flat Special Achievement: Jackie Bolger

(Poetic Flare & Mac Swiney)

Services to the Industry: Brian Kavanagh