THE shock news that Lady Chryss O’Reilly has died, at the age of just 73, has left many people in the worlds of racing and breeding reeling.

In attendance at last weekend’s Arqana Yearling Sale, she sold the top lot at the v.2 Sale on Tuesday. This was days after she watched two horses she bred, Vespertilio (with Ecurie des Monceaux) and Witch Hunter, land Group 2 races in Ireland and Britain. I hope she garnered huge joy from the wins.

Though born into a privileged lifestyle, it was to her great credit that Lady O’Reilly was at ease with people she met, though she was somewhat shy and liked her privacy. She inherited a great love for horses from family members, and enjoyed enormous success as an owner and breeder.

In Ireland, she was, for a decade, chairman of the Irish National Stud, and she dedicated herself to that role. My late father was a board member during this time, and he enjoyed a great friendship with Lady O’Reilly, often resulting in lengthy telephone calls when they would discuss the merits of various horses, and their potential as stallions. Evenings spent at Castlemartin over supper, with their spouses, were not unusual.

Apart from knowing Chryss O’Reilly and meeting her at the races and the sales, I twice had the great pleasure of compering events at which she was honoured.

Twelve years ago, the Kildare/Dublin region of the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association hosted her and Sir Anthony O’Reilly, and two years later, the same body honoured her after she stepped down from the chair of the INS, and she was inducted into the Association’s Hall of Fame.

In his address to the gathering that evening, the ITBA’s then chairman, Joe Osborne, called for more education and enlightenment of those within and outside the business, to make people aware that horses are part of our culture. Addressing the new Hall of Fame inductee, he said: “It is the kind of work Lady O’Reilly has overseen in her productive term as chairman of the Irish National Stud; educating future achievers and showcasing the strong link between our people and their horses.”

He added: “She has been an exemplar in the industry as a breeder, an owner and through her work at the INS. There is no one more deserving of induction into our Hall of Fame.” So well said.

Time has not allowed us this week to pay a full tribute to Lady O’Reilly, but we will do so comprehensively next week. To her husband, family and friends, our deepest sympathy.