BILLY Lee, Denis Hogan and Magical were the big winners at the Curragh Awards, in association with The Irish Field, this week.
Over 100 guests attended the event in what was the members’ bar in the racecourse’s new grandstand. Now rebranded as the Lilywhites’ Lounge, the impressive facility will be open to the public next season.
This was just one of the revelations made on the night by Curragh CEO Pat Keogh. He also told MC Thom Malone of a major price drop for membership in 2020, increased prize money for the Derby meeting and the return of the Smurfit group as race sponsors.
On to the awards, which were all decided by public vote. Billy Lee was a popular winner of Ride of the Season at the Curragh, though he admitted he almost talked himself out of the ride on the Matthew Smith-trained One Cool Poet on the Sunday of Irish Champions Weekend. The partnership had been well beaten in a similar race at Leopardstown the day earlier. Lee said: “Thank God Matthew didn’t listen to me after Leopardstown. I told him I didn’t think it was a good idea to run him again on Sunday. But the rain came and everything worked out great.”
Denis Hogan was cheered to the rafters by friends and family when he was called to receive the Training Performance of the Season Award for his handling of Make A Challenge. The sprinter won six races in 2019, half of them at the Curragh, including the Joe McGrath Handicap and a listed race.
Hogan gave credit to the horse’s rider Joe Doyle for his dedication, and to owners Walter O’Connor and James Reilly for investing in the horse before he showed his true ability.
Aidan O’Brien and Christy Grassick were on hand to receive the Curragh Horse of the Season Award on behalf of Magical’s owners.
The trainer summed up the filly: “She had a great mind, and was very versatile in terms of ground and distance. She ran right up to her mark, right to the end. It was incredible that she could win two Champions Stakes and run in the Arc in between. I don’t think that has been done before. We think she’ll be a great cross for No Nay Never.”