A total of 34 nominations have been made for the 2020 Horse Racing Ireland Awards which will be presented at a virtual awards ceremony early next month.
     
    Seven 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 Award which was presented for the first time last year. 
     
    Once again, a public vote will decide the outcome of the 2020 Ride of the Year winner with the contenders to be announced shortly. 

     

  • Emerging Talent

    Joey Sheridan

    Joey built on a terrific 2019 with no shortage of success this year. He had a day to remember at ParisLongchamp in early October when partnering the Tony Mullins-trained Princess Zoe to win the Qatar Prix du Cadran, his first Group 1 victory. He also enjoyed significant handicap and listed race success on the same horse and in addition, rode two listed race winners for trainer Denis Hogan. 

    Gavin Ryan

    The champion apprentice for 2020, Gavin rode his first Group race winner when the Donnacha O'Brien-trained Shale won the Group 3 Silver Flash Stakes at Leopardstown. He won a second race at the same level when the Ado McGuinness-trained Current Option took the Concorde Stakes at Tipperary. Gavin was also won a listed race and enjoyed significant handicap success on both Current Option and McGuinness’ Saltonstall, and another big handicap victory came on the Mark Fahey-trained Edification. Gavin was the leading Flat jockey at this year’s Galway festival with five winners. 

    Shane Crosse

    Shane certainly had a year to remember, riding his first Group 1 winner on the Joseph O'Brien-trained Pretty Gorgeous in the Fillies' Mile at Newmarket in October. Earlier in the season, he had enjoyed Group 2 success on Speak In Colours at the Curragh in June and rode out his claim with a treble at Leopardstown the following month. 

  • Dylan Browne McMonagle

    Dylan rode his first winner in October of 2019 and wasted little time establishing himself as one of the leading apprentice riders in the country. He was successful on the Joseph O'Brien-trained Baron Samedi on three occasions and enjoyed notable handicap race success on the trainer’s Mighty Blue and Memyselfandmoi. The busy 17-year-old reduced his claim to 5lbs only last month. 

    Sean O'Keeffe

    In only his third full season riding, Sean is one of the busiest of National Hunt jockeys and is enjoying no shortage of success in a most competitive sphere. He is on the verge of riding out his claim and shared his biggest success to date with Gordon Elliott as they combined to win the Matheson Handicap Chase with Eclair De Beaufeu at the Dublin Racing Festival earlier this year. 

  • NATIONAL HUNT AWARD NOMINEES

  • Rachael Blackmore

    Rachael enjoyed another strong year and her association with the unbeaten Honeysuckle was the definite highlight. She won Grade 1 chases on Notebook and A Plus Tard at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival and returned to the same course for the Dublin Racing Festival where Notebook was again a Grade 1 winner and the Irish Champion Hurdle went her way on Honeysuckle. Rachael gained her third Cheltenham Festival success on the same mare in the Grade 1 Close Brothers Mares' Hurdle in March. 

    Henry de Bromhead

    An opening day Grade 1 double brought Henry de Bromhead’s Cheltenham Festival tally to nine winners. Put The Kettle On was triumphant in the Arkle Novice’s Chase and the fine unbeaten mare Honeysuckle brought her top-level haul to four with a battling success in the Mares’ Hurdle. She had earlier won the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown’s Dublin Racing Festival and De Bromhead also recorded domestic Grade 1 success with both Notebook (twice) and A Plus Tard. 

    Gordon Elliott

    Gordon saddled seven winners at the Cheltenham Festival in March and his achievements closer to home have been equally impressive. He saddled four Grade 1 winners at the Christmas Festival at Leopardstown and began the New Year with further Grade 1 success with Envoi Allen at Naas. Envoi Allen completed a hat-trick of Grade 1 wins in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham and remains unbeaten in eight starts for the Cullentra trainer. Delta Work was an Irish Gold Cup winner at Leopardstown in February and Aforementioned was yet another notable handicap chase winner for Gordon in the Ladbrokes JT McNamara Munster National at Limerick in October. 

     

  • Paul Townend

    The champion jockey, Paul again enjoyed his greatest moment of the year when winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup for a second time on Al Boum Photo. Paul emerged as the leading rider at the Cheltenham Festival for the first time with five winners. He had ridden a Grade 1 double at the Dublin Racing Festival in February on Chacun Pour Soi and Faugheen and was the big winner at the Listowel festival where he won the Guinness Kerry National for the first time on Cabaret Queen. 

     

    Willie Mullins

    The champion trainer, Willie became the leading trainer at the Cheltenham Festival for the seventh time when dominating the final day this year with four winners, including the back-to-back success of Al Boum Photo in the Gold Cup. Closer to home, he won Grade 1 races with the likes of Faugheen, Sharjah, Chacun Pour Soi and Asterion Forlonge and big handicap wins came his way in the Thyestes with Total Recall, the Galway Hurdle with Aramon and the Kerry National with Cabaret Queen. 

  • National Hunt Achievement Award Nominees

    Eugene and Maxine O’Sullivan (joint-nomination)

    It Came To Pass bridged a 29-year gap for Lombardstown, County Cork trainer Eugene O'Sullivan when easily winning the St James’ Place Foxhunter Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March. O’Sullivan had won the race in 1991 with Lovely Citizen, ridden by his brother William, and there was another strong family link to this year’s triumph as O’Sullivan’s daughter Maxine was in the saddle as the 66/1 outsider scored a 10-length success. 

    Patrick Mullins

    The winning-most amateur rider in Irish racing history, Patrick set another new standard when becoming the champion amateur rider for a record 12th time, a terrific achievement. Grade 1 winners Sharjah and Faugheen counted towards last season’s winning haul as did his Grade 2 bumper success on Appreciate It at the Dublin Racing Festival in February. 

    Charles Byrnes

    There can’t be many more competitive handicap hurdles in the calendar than the Ladbrokes Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival and Charles landed a remarkable third consecutive win in the race at Leopardstown in February. Successful with Off You Go in 2018 and 2019, the Limerick trainer struck with 7/1 chance Thosedaysaregone this year. 

    Darragh O'Keeffe

    Despite the shortened season, Darragh set a record of 45 winners when taking the conditional jockeys’ championship. His tally was one more than Jack Kennedy’s winning total in the 2015/2016 season and big winners included Cork Grand National success on The Gatechecker in November of last year. More recently, Everlastingpromise gave him a notable success at Killarney in July while he won the Liam Healy Memorial Lartigue Handicap Hurdle on the Ado McGuinness-trained Politicise in September. 

  • FLAT AWARD NOMINEES

  • Aidan O'Brien

    The champion trainer once again, Aidan’s season was highlighted by Classic success in Ireland and Britain and multiple Group 1 victories at home, in Britain and in France. Love added the Yorkshire Oaks to earlier wins in the QIPCO 1,000 Guineas and the Epsom Oaks, O’Brien enjoyed English and Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby wins with Serpentine and Santiago respectively while Peaceful took the Tattersalls Irish 1,000 Guineas. Magical also starred with wins in the Pretty Polly Stakes and the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh and in the Irish Champion Stakes on Longines Irish Champions Weekend at Leopardstown. Mogul and Van Gogh were top-flight winners in France. 

    Colin Keane

    Colin is the champion jockey for the second time, overhauling front-runner Shane Foley with a remarkable run of form that included a first career four-timer in late August. Keane landed his first Classic success on Siskin in the Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas in June and added a second when Even So won the Juddmonte Irish Oaks the following month. Further Group 1 glory came when he partnered Champers Elysees to win the Coolmore Matron Stakes at Leopardstown on Longines Irish Champions Weekend. A’Ali, Lemista and Safe Voyage were Group 2 winners for the Meathman during the year. Colin rode 100 winners this season, the third time he has reached a three-figure tally.

     

    Ger Lyons

    Ger enjoyed another solid season and reached new highs very early on when recording a breakthrough Classic success with Siskin in the Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh. He followed that with a win in the Juddmonte Irish Oaks with Even So a month later. Lemista, a three-time winner this season, won at both Group 2 and Group 3 level with Nickajack Cave also a Group 3 winner for the stable. The speedy two-year-old Frenetic won four races while the likes of Amber Kite, Ecliptical and Maker Of Kings also added multiple victories during the year. 

  • Joseph O'Brien

    Another super year for Joseph, topped off by a first British Classic success with Galileo Chrome in the St Leger at Doncaster in September and a second Melbourne Cup triumph, with Twilight Payment, in early November. The two-year-olds Pretty Gorgeous and Thunder Moon also scored at Group 1 level, with Pista, Twilight Payment, Speak In Colours and Baron Samedi adding Group 2 wins while Patrick Sarsfield, Crossfirehurricane and Buckhurst bagged Group 3 success for the Piltown stable. Joseph takes second place in the trainers’ championship for the third successive year. 

    Johnny Murtagh

    Johnny easily enjoyed his best season as a trainer in 2020. He enjoyed a terrific start to the term, notably sharing his much of success with a number of jockeys. Champers Elysees was Murtagh’s first winner of the season in a handicap at the Curragh in June and she progressed through the ranks, winning a listed race at the Galway festival, a Group 3 at Tipperary and then giving the stable its finest hour when landing the Group 1 Matron Stakes at Leopardstown on Longines Irish Champions Weekend, a race Murtagh won on three occasions as a jockey. Know It All and Urban Beat were other Group 3 winners, Aztec Parade won at listed level and Sonnyboyliston and Red Kelly landed notable handicap success.  

  • FLAT ACHIEVEMENT AWARD NOMINEES

  • Emmet McNamara

    Few can boast as strong a backroom staff as champion trainer Aidan O'Brien and featuring highly on the Ballydoyle team is Emmet McNamara. He enjoyed by far the greatest moment of his career when winning the Epsom Derby on the O’Brien-trained Serpentine in early July. The Limerickman gave the 25/1 outsider a brilliantly bold ride, setting a strong pace from the off and racing clear throughout. He hardly saw another rival as he recorded a convincing five and a half-length success.  

    Tony Mullins

    Tony is certainly no stranger to success but he broke new ground with his terrific handling of Princess Zoe this season. The five-year-old made huge strides after easily winning the Ladies Derby at the Curragh under Jody Townend in mid-July. She followed that with two hugely significant handicap wins at the Galway festival and returned to Ballybrit in September to land the Listed Ardilaun Hotel Oyster Stakes. She then gave Mullins his greatest day when winning Group 1 Qatar Prix du Cadran at ParisLongchamp on Arc weekend, a truly memorable success under Joey Sheridan. 

     

    Kieran Cotter

    Kieran’s handling of A Step Too Far was one of the stories of the season, the four-year-old winning a remarkable six handicap races in-a-row. Her run of success began at Naas in July off a rating of 50. She won twice in two days at Bellewstown the following month and the first of three wins in September came at Navan, with further success gained at a higher level at Cork. But the best was yet to come as the Sinead Dunne-owned filly scored a thrilling victory in the Heffernan Tyres Joe McGrath Handicap, a win that saw her rating rise to 91. 

     

  • Donnacha O'Brien

    Donnacha only sent out his first runners at the beginning of 2020 but he has made an immediate impact in the training ranks. Three weeks short of his 22nd birthday, he scored a first Classic success in the Prix de Diane at Chantilly in July with Fancy Blue, the first Irish-trained winner of the race since 1970. The same filly gave Donnacha a winner with his first runner in Britain when landing the Group 1 Qatar Nassau Stakes at Goodwood and his first top-level success at home came when Shale won the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh in September. 

    Dermot Weld

    Dermot has long been making headlines and the master trainer was certainly the centre of attention with a fine Classic/Group 1 double on the second Sunday in September. In his own back yard, he landed a record-equalling ninth success in the Irish St Leger at the Curragh when winning the race for a second successive year with Search For A Song. A little earlier on the same afternoon, Weld struck a blow for the Irish at ParisLongchamp where the thoroughly progressive Tarnawa gave him his first success in the Group 1 Prix Vermeille. She would return to France to win the Group 1 Prix De l’Opera the following month. 

    Seamie Heffernan

    One of the most successful Irish jockeys of all time, Seamie added to his remarkable big-race success with four Group 1 wins this season. He recorded a Classic double with wins on Peaceful in the Tattersalls Irish 1,000 Guineas and on Santiago in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby and added memorable wins on the superstar Magical in the Pretty Polly Stakes, also at the Curragh, and in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on Longines Irish Champions Weekend in September. 

  • HORSE OF THE YEAR AWARD NOMINEES

  • Al Boum Photo

    For the second year running, Al Boum Photo made a winning seasonal reappearance at Tramore on New Year's Day and went on to land the Cheltenham Gold Cup for Willie Mullins and Paul Townend. He became only the seventh horse to win the race back-to-back and the first to do so since Best Mate’s second win in the race in 2003.  

     

    Magical

    Magical matched last season’s winning haul of three Group 1 races in another superb year. Now a Group 1 winner at three, four and five years of age, she made a winning return to action in the Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh in late June. She repeated last year’s success in the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the same course the following month and also landed a back-to-back success in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on Longines Irish Champions Weekend in September where she beat the world’s highest-rated racehorse, Ghaiyyath. 

    Honeysuckle

    The star mare in training, Honeysuckle is unbeaten in eight racecourse starts and was one of the big winners over hurdles this year. She won four times in all last season, completing a hat-trick of Grade 1 victories when adding to her success in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown in February and rounding off the season when getting the better of odds-on favourite Benie Des Dieux to land the Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March. 

     

  • Love

    Aidan O'Brien enjoyed plenty of Group 1 success in 2020 and an early contributor to his top-level haul was Love. She was quite brilliant when winning the Qipco 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket in June and was better again when taking the Epsom Oaks by all of nine lengths the following month. She put up another special performance to land the Yorkshire Oaks in August and was certainly one of the stars of the summer. 

    Envoi Allen

    Gordon Elliott’s charge added to four unbeaten starts in bumpers with four straight wins over hurdles last season, three of them at Grade 1 level. He built on success in the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle when winning the Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle in January and maintained his perfect record with a taking win in the Ballymore Novices´ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March. 

     

  • POINT-TO-POINT AWARD NOMINEES

  • Colin Bowe

    The Handlers award was first recognised in point to points in 2008 and since then Colin Bowe has dominated the category winning his eighth title in this shortened season. His 29 winners achieved by the end of March when the season ended would have won the title in ten of the twelve years so far such was the dominance of his runners up the point of lockdown. His business revolves around selling quality stock and therefore his return at the Cheltenham festival was remarkable. The unbeaten Envoi Allen winning the Ballymore, Samcro winning the Marsh Chase and Ferny Hollow winning the bumper all showcased the exceptional talent being tutored at the Milestone academy year after year. Bowe also provided Barry O’Neill with much of the firepower to win a fourth riders' title.

     

     

    Rob James

    Rob has enjoyed success on Shishkin, Topofthegame, The Big Breakaway and many other high-class performers in recent seasons. With 219 winners, he is 15th in the list of all-time winners ridden by point-to-point riders. This season he picked up his first regional award when winning the Western award to add the Novice title he secured in 2014. In March, he enjoyed his first Cheltenham Festival success when scoring on Milan Native in the Kim Muir for Gordon Elliott and Gigginstown House Stud.

     

    Barry O'Neill

    Barry is becoming the dominant force of his riding generation within point to points. He picked up his first title in 2017 seeing off Derek O’Connor and Jamie Codd and has secured his position as the dominant force by securing his fourth successive title this season. Finishing on a score of 42 by the end of March was remarkable and he also saw some of the horses he had previously partnered in point to points achieve notable success on the track such as Samrco and the unbeaten Envoi Allen. In October 2020 Barry O’Neill became just the fourth rider to partner 600 career winners between the flags and went on to ride his 603 winners at Moira which moved him past the late J T McNamara (602) to become the third winning-most rider in the history of the sport behind Derek O’Connor and Jamie Codd.

    Mark O’Hare

    Mark O’Hare enjoyed a wonderful career securing a Landrover Bumper, a Cheltenham festival winner and towards the latter stages of his career a notably successful connection to the Noel Meade yard. His point to point exploits were remarkable given that his haul of 244 career winners in points saw him ride a winner in each of the four decades in which he rode. He rode his first winner in 1999 and went on to be Northern Champion in 2006 and again in 2016 before riding a winner at Armagh point to point in 2020 to secure the feat of a winner in four different decades. This is an achievement which capped a fine career for the popular northern rider.

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