A total of 46 nominations have been made for the 2021
Horse Racing Ireland Awards which will be presented at the HRI Awards virtual
ceremony on December 15, available to view free-to-air on Racing TV and also at
category winners will be decided by a ballot of the Irish racing media – Horse
of the Year, National Hunt Award, National Hunt Achievement Award, Flat Award,
Flat Achievement Award, Point-to-Point Award and the Emerging Talent
Once again, a public vote will decide the outcome of the 2021 Ride of the Year.
Dylan Browne McMonagle certainly built on the promise he
showed during his breakthrough year in 2020 to be crowned champion apprentice this
season. He amassed 48 winners in all and among them were Joseph O'Brien’s Baron
Samedi, his first Group race success, and Mighty Blue, a first win at Listed
level for the Donegal teenager.
Jordan Gainford has enjoyed a fine
year. He rode his first winner in the professional ranks in February and secured
a first Cheltenham Festival success on Emmet Mullins’ The Shunter less than a
month later. A treble at Down Royal in May kick-started what has been a
terrific season for the County Wexford conditional rider and his continued
success has seen him occupying a prominent position in the National Hunt jockeys’
title race ever since.
2021 was most certainly a year to remember for Mikey Sheehy.
A first Listed race victory on the Joseph O'Brien-trained Queenship featured
among his 33 winners during the season and Mikey also enjoyed a big day at the
Galway festival where he won the Colm Quinn BMW Mile Handicap on the Ado
McGuinness-trained Sirjack Thomas. Mikey was also a winner at the Curragh on
Longines Irish Champions Weekend when landing the Northfields Handicap on Max
Mayhem, another trained by Joseph O'Brien.
Shane Fitzgerald is another young rider who will look back
on 2021 with great fondness. His first ride in the professional ranks was a
winning one at Clonmel in May and he hasn’t looked back since. Shane notched up
a treble at Tipperary in July and really made the headlines when winning the
Guinness Kerry National on the Joseph O'Brien-trained Assemble at Listowel in
September, a significant success so early in his career.
Sam Ewing only rode his first winner in August of last year
but he has wasted little time in establishing himself among the top apprentices
in the country. He rode an impressive 25 winners in his first full season and
among his highlights was a first Listed race success on the Matthew
Smith-trained Master Matt at Tipperary.
National Hunt Award Nominee
Darragh O'Keeffe made the Grade 1 breakthrough on his first
ride at the highest level when winning the Savills Chase on the Henry De
Bromhead-trained A Plus Tard at Leopardstown last Christmas. A regular visitor
to the winners’ enclosure since, Darragh has spent a significant portion of
this season as the leading jockey and the winners continue to flow for the
County Cork jockey.
Two of Henry de Bromhead’s achievements in 2021 are among
the most noteworthy in the entire rich history of the sport. Henry became the
only trainer to win the Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase and the Gold Cup at the
Cheltenham Festival in the same year and just a matter of weeks later, he
saddled the first two horses home in the Aintree Grand National. No trainer had
sent out a 1-2 in the race since 1908 and de Bromhead is only the second to
achieve the feat. Henry also won five Grade 1 races in Ireland during the
Willie Mullins dominated matters at home once again and was
crowned champion trainer for the 15th time at Punchestown. He saddled 23 Grade
1 winners during the Irish season and his most significant winners on home soil
were the three-time Grade 1 scorer Chacun Pour Soi and dual Grade 1 winners
Appreciate It, Colreevy, Monkfish, Energumene and Gaillard Du Mesnil while Kemboy
won the Irish Gold Cup. With six winners, Mullins pipped Henry de Bromhead to
become the leading trainer at the Cheltenham Festival for the eighth time.
Paul Townend secured his fourth jockeys’ championship in May
of this year and among his 100 winners in an injury-interrupted season were 12
Grade 1 successes. He bettered his tally of three Grade 1 winners at the
Leopardstown Christmas Festival with five big winners at the Dublin Racing
Festival and returned from injury to win four Grade 1 races at Punchestown. Paul
was also a dual Grade 1 winner at the Cheltenham Festival.
National Hunt Achievement Award Nominee
His father Liam rode the Tom Dreaper-trained Kerforo to win
the Irish Grand National in 1962 and local trainer Dermot McLoughlin wrote
himself into the race’s record books when winning the Fairyhouse spectacular
with Freewheelin Dylan, ridden by Ricky Doyle, on Easter Monday. Owned by
Sheila Mangan, the nine-year-old was returned at odds of 150/1, the
longest-priced winner of the race in its 150-year history.
Certainly no stranger to big-race success, Gavin Cromwell
shone once again on the biggest of racing’s stages with a memorable Grade 1
double at the Cheltenham Festival in March. He won the Stayers' Hurdle with
Flooring Porter on day three of the meeting and followed up on the final
afternoon with success in the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle with Vanillier,
two terrific wins for the County Meath trainer.
Emotions were running high as Jack Kennedy lifted the
biggest prize of them all, the Cheltenham Gold Cup, on the Henry de
Bromhead-trained Minella Indo on the final day of this year’s Festival in
March. At just 21 years of age, the Dingle sensation described the occasion as
“the best day of my life” as he landed a battling success over the Rachael
Blackmore-ridden A Plus Tard, a stable companion of the winner.
Shark Hanlon landed a most notable feat with a £600 purchase
when Skyace won the Grade 1 Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Hurdle
Championship Final at Fairyhouse on Easter Sunday. It was a fifth and by far
the most important win for the Birdinthehand Syndicate-owned six-year-old.
Peter Fahey enjoyed his greatest day as a trainer when he
won the Grade 1 Betway Top Novices´ Hurdle with Belfast Banter, a first
top-level success for the Monasterevin man. The Direct Bloodstock Ltd-owned
six-year-old has climbed through the ranks and was a Cheltenham Festival winner
only a matter of weeks earlier, winning the County Hurdle with Kevin Sexton
again in the saddle.
In the opening months of 2021, Paul Hennessy trained just
two horses and he bagged Dublin Racing Festival and Cheltenham Festival success
with one of them. Heaven Help Us was one of the star performers at the
beginning of the year, racing to success in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Paddy
Mullins Mares Handicap Hurdle at Leopardstown before winning the Coral Cup by
all of nine lengths at Cheltenham. The John Turner-owned seven-year-old was
ridden to both wins by Richie Condon.
Claire and Niall Flynn have a true star on their hands in
the shape of Colreevy which they both own and bred. Successful in a Grade 1
bumper at the Punchestown festival in 2019, she was a winner at the top level
over fences for the first time when winning the Matchbook Exchange Faugheen Novice
Chase at Limerick last Christmas, going on to take the inaugural running of the
Grade 2 mares’ chase at Cheltenham before and returning home to win the Grade 1
Dooley Insurance Champion Novice Chase at the Punchestown festival.
The record-breaking amateur rider was crowned champion for
the 13th time at Punchestown this year and continues to enjoy great success at
the very highest level of the game. Last season alone, Patrick rode four Grade
1 winners and more recently won the Guinness Galway Hurdle for the third time
in four years when victorious on Saldier at the festival in July. The win saw
Patrick become the first jockey to win the race on three occasions since Jonjo
O’Neill’s third success in 1983.
Flat Award Nominee
The champion trainer once again, Aidan was a multiple
Group/Grade 1 winner in Britain, France and America during the year. He added
the Tattersalls Irish 1,000 Guineas with Empress Josephine and the Juddmonte
Irish Oaks with Snowfall to his domestic Classic haul and also won the Irish
Champion Stakes with St Mark’s Basilica.
Colin dominated the Flat season from a jockeys point of
view, enjoying a clear lead in the championship from a very early stage as he
secured a third riders’ title. He notched up the fastest century of winners,
bettered Joseph O’Brien’s 2013 total of 126 and then set a new record of 141
winners with a final day double at Naas. Colin’s season was also highlighted by
his Group 1 success on the Noel Meade-trained Helvic Dream in the Tattersalls
Gold Cup at the Curragh in May and he also won at that level for Aidan O'Brien
when taking the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud on Broome in early July.
Jessica Harrington enjoyed yet another memorable Flat
season, winning Group 1 races on both days of Longines Irish Champions Weekend
with No Speak Alexander at Leopardstown and Discoveries at the Curragh. Those
winners were among the 87 she sent out during the course of the season, by far
her biggest total, with only Joseph O'Brien and Aidan O'Brien winning more
For the first time, Joseph was the leading trainer by way of
winners, ending the domestic season with a tally of 108, 20 winners more than
his father Aidan. His haul included Group 1 success with Thundering Nights in
the Alwasmiyah Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh but on the other side of the
world, Joseph O'Brien added to his remarkable record in Australia with a first
success in the Group 1 Cox Plate at Moonee Valley with State Of Rest, ridden by
Johnny Allen. The same horse had won the Grade 1 Saratoga Derby in August while
also in America, Baron Samedi had taken the Grade 2 Belmont Gold Cup Stakes in
Johnny enjoyed a terrific season with no shortage of notable
success on both sides of the Irish Sea. The Kildare Racing club-owned
Sonnyboyliston was a big winner on both shores, adding to his battling success
in the Ebor Handicap at York when taking the Group 1 Comer Group International
Irish St Leger, the final Classic of the season at the Curragh. Johnny also
secured his first win as a trainer at Royal Ascot with Create Belief, Ottoman
Emperor was a winner at Goodwood while closer to home, Earlswood landed two Group
Flat Achievement Award
Ado had a year to remember and the crowning glory was his
terrific late season success with A Case Of You in the Prix De l’Abbaye. The
Lusk-based trainer enjoyed significant premier handicap, Listed, Group 3 and
Group 2 wins in the preceding months but reached a new level as the Gary
Devlin-owned three-year-old scored a memorable last-gasp Group 1 victory at
ParisLongchamp in October.
Ben built on the promise shown in recent years as he enjoyed
an undoubted breakthrough season in 2021, highlighted by his first Classic
success on the Johnny Murtagh-trained Sonnyboyliston in the Comer Group
International Irish St Leger at the Curragh in September. Coen was only 19
years of age at the time and he will look back on the season with great
fondness having also enjoyed significant success on big days at the Royal
Ascot, Goodwood and York festivals.
Edward was back on the big stage with one of his sprinters
as Romantic Proposal won the Grade 1 Derrinstown Stud Flying Five Stakes at the
Curragh on Longines Irish Champions Weekend in September. The five-year-old has
certainly come up through the ranks, winning her maiden two years previously
when rated 68 before going on to land notable handicap and Listed race success.
The early season Classic victories for both Poetic Flare and
Mac Swiney must rank highly among the many great days enjoyed by Jim and Jackie
Bolger. That both horses were bred and trained by Jim and they carried Jackie’s
colours to victory in the Qipco 2,000 Guineas Stakes at Newmarket and the
Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh respectively was very special.
For good measure, the Bolgers also bred the horses’ sires, dams and grandams.
No stranger to success at the very highest level in bumpers,
over hurdles and over fences, Noel Meade broke new ground in 2021 when
recording his first Group 1 success on the Flat. The multiple champion jumps
trainer landed the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh in May with Helvic
Dream., Colin Keane’s only top-level success in Ireland last season.
Paddy maintained a fine strike-rate throughout the season,
the careful placing of his horses yielding a remarkable 18 winners from 61
runners in Ireland. Seven of his 25 runners in Irish Pattern races were winners,
including the jewel in the crown, La Petite Coco which won the Group 2 Moyglare
“Jewels” Blandford Stakes at the Curragh on Longines Irish Champions Weekend.
Rory Cleary landed the biggest success of his career when
winning the Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas on the Jim Bolger-trained Mac
Swiney at the Curragh in May. It was a first Classic and Group 1 success for
one of the most popular jockeys and his success was widely acclaimed,
especially by his weighroom colleagues who clapped the Athlone-born rider back
into the winners’ enclosure on a most memorable day.
Horse Of The Year Award Nominee
The highest-rated chaser in training, Chacun Pour Soi enjoyed
a near-perfect season, winning three Grade 1 races along the way. He was one of
the stars at both the Leopardstown Christmas Festival and the Dublin Racing
Festival with runaway Grade 1 victories and bounced back from a surprising
reversal at the Cheltenham Festival to win the Champion Chase at the
Punchestown Festival where he beat the Cheltenham winner Allaho in terrific
In the colours of the Flooring Porter Syndicate, the Gavin
Cromwell-trained Flooring Porter rose through the ranks last season to secure
Grade 1 success at both the Leopardstown Christmas Festival and the Cheltenham
Festival. His first win of the season came in a handicap hurdle at Navan in
early December, three weeks later he was the all-the-way winner, again under
Jonathan Moore, of the Leopardstown Christmas Hurdle and he went straight to
Cheltenham in March where he made all the running in the hands of Danny
Mullins, replacing the injured Moore, to take the Stayers’ Hurdle in tremendous
Kenny Alexander’s star mare again won all before her,
topping a remarkable season with success in the Champion Hurdle at the
Cheltenham Festival. Her season had begun with a second success in the Hatton’s
Grade Hurdle at Fairyhouse in November, she won the Irish Champion Hurdle for a
second time at Leopardstown in January, enjoyed her greatest day at Cheltenham
in March and stretched a remarkable unbeaten run to 12 for Henry de Bromhead
and Rachael Blackmore with victory in the Champion Hurdle at Punchestown at the
end of April.
Minella Indo was another star performer from the Henry de
Bromhead-team last season, winning the biggest race of them all under Jack
Kennedy, the Cheltenham Gold Cup, a first success in the race for de
Bromhead. He led home a 1-2 for the stable that famous
afternoon when seeing off A Plus Tard, adding to earlier wins during the season
at Wexford and at Navan.
Horse Of The Year Nominee
Jim Bolger enjoyed a magical time of it early last season,
with a terrific success in the Qipco 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket with his
homebred Poetic Flare. The same horse would just lose out in the Irish 2,000
Guineas at the Curragh but scored a stunning success in the St James´s Palace
Stakes at Royal Ascot before taking the runner-up spot in the Group 1 Sussex
Stakes at Goodwood and the Prix Jacques Le Marois at Deauville. He rounded off
a rewarding season when a close third in the Irish Champion Stakes at
Snowfall was the outstanding middle-distance filly this
season, landing a record-breaking 16-length win in the Oaks at Epsom in June
and followed up with a facile success in the Irish Oaks at the Curragh the
following month, becoming only the 15th to complete the double. Her season had
begun with an all-the-way success in the Musidora Stakes in May and she
returned to York in August to add the Yorkshire Oaks to her impressive CV.
St Mark’s Basilica built on the Group 1 winning form he
showed as a two-year-old to win four top-level races this season. He completed
a French Classic double with success in the 2,000 Guineas and the Derby before winning
the Coral-Eclipse Stakes and then the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown,
remaining unbeaten in four starts in 2021 and retiring as the joint-highest
rated horse in the world.
Point-To-Point Award Nominee
For the ninth time in his career, Colin Bowe was crowned
champion handler when the 2020/21 season came to a close in late May.
Remarkably, despite the significantly curtailed campaign which saw pointing
wiped out between January and the start of April, the County Wexford handler
still enjoyed one of his best seasons to date as he sent out 44 winners and a further
59 placed finishers from a total of 216 runners. That was just one winner shy
of his previous best, highlighting his dominance.
John had three weeks last spring that will last a lifetime,
when two horses that he started out point-to-pointing went on to win two of the
biggest prizes in racing. Minella Indo, which had made a winning debut for the
hotelier in a five-year-old maiden at Dromahane in March 2018, won the
Cheltenham Gold Cup almost three years to the day of his debut success, whilst
three weeks later it was the turn of Minella Times to propel the Clonmel native
back into the spotlight when he provided Rachael Blackmore with her first Grand
National success at Aintree.
Barry was unstoppable in the riding division during the
2020/21 season as he won the champion riders’ title for a fifth year in
succession courtesy of 54 winners, almost three times the number of any other
rider. Perhaps most notably, the Wexford native created history when he became
the first rider to pick up all four of the regional titles in the same season,
a feat which had not previously been achieved in the near 40 years since those
titles were created.
Pat Doyle has long been synonymous with producing top-class
performers through the point-to-point fields with Grade 1 winners First
Lieutenant, Shattered Love, Death Duty, Bacardys, Brindisi Breeze and No More
Heroes all starting their careers at Suirview Stables. This year Doyle’s
Tipperary academy was responsible for no fewer than three Cheltenham Festival
winners with Bob Olinger, Appreciate It and Colreevy coming home in front at
Prestbury Park in March.
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