Having become the first horse since Red Rum to win back-to-back Grand Nationals in April, Tiger Roll was unsurprisingly crowned Horse of the Year at the Horse Racing Ireland awards, writes David Jennings.
The pint-sized pocket rocket, who even has a book written about him, not only won the world’s most famous race in 2019, but the previous month he claimed a fourth success at the Cheltenham Festival when a runaway winner of the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase under Keith Donoghue.
There was a standing ovation for Pat Smullen and Ruby Walsh, who were announced as the Irish Racing Hero award winners.
The pair are recognised as two of the greatest riders that Ireland has ever produced and retired within days of each other earlier this year.
Nine-time Flat champion Smullen hung up his boots in early May and was then central to a celebrated fundraising campaign for pancreatic cancer trials and awareness of pancreatic cancer research, culminating with the Pat Smullen Champions Race for Cancer Trials Ireland at the Curragh and a sum raised for charity in excess of €2.5m.
The award winners
Horse of the Year: Tiger Roll
Irish Racing Hero: Pat Smullen & Ruby Walsh
Contribution to the Industry: Tony O’Hehir
Emerging Talent: Darragh O'Keeffe
National Hunt: Rachael Blackmore
National Hunt Achievement: Gavin Cromwell
Flat: Jessica Harrington
Flat Achievement: Wayne Lordan
Point-to-Point: Colin Bowe
Ride of the Year: Billy Lee
Racecourse of the Year: Naas Racecourse
Walsh shocked the racing world when bowing out after his success on Kemboy in the Punchestown Gold Cup. The 12-time champion jockey was the winning most rider in Cheltenham Festival history with 59 winners.
Rachael Blackmore’s stunning season, which saw her beat all bar Paul Townend in the Irish jump jockeys’ championship, propelled her to victory in the National Hunt award category. She also opened her Cheltenham account in March with victories on A Plus Tard and Minella Indo, and was a three-time Grade 1 winner on home soil.
Jessica Harrington used to be best known for her exploits as a jumps trainer but her stunning summer earned her the Flat award.
The Moone-based trainer enjoyed her best ever season on the Flat, highlighted by the remarkable success of her juvenile fillies. The exciting Albigna landed the Group 2 Airlie Stud Stakes at the Curragh on Derby weekend before winning the prestigious Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac at Longchamp on Arc day.
The National Hunt Achievement award went to Gavin Cromwell. The farrier and successful dual-purpose trainer sent out Espoir D’Allen to create history in the Champion Hurdle in March, winning by a record-breaking 15 lengths.
Wayne Lordan’s move to Ballydoyle proved a big hit and he picked up the Flat Achievement award. He began his season with success on Hermosa in the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket and rounded off the year with a first Breeders’ Cup win on Iridessa.
Colin Bowe won the Point-To-Point award, while the top-class conditional Darragh O'Keeffe was a most deserving winner of the inaugural Emerging Talent award.
The Ride of the Year award was decided by a public vote and Billy Lee emerged victorious for his success on Space Traveller in the Clipper Logistics Boomerang Stakes at Leopardstown during Irish Champions Weekend.
Naas was the winner of the Racecourse of the Year award, following a ballot of members of the Racegoers’ Consultative Forum, the Irish racing media, the Association of Irish Racehorse Owners, the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association, the Irish Jockeys Association and the Irish Stablestaff Association.