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Saturday, 15 December, 2018

Tipperary beef and braised roulade no match for O'Brien and Harrington

Aidan O'Brien: record-breaker at the HRI awards
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Well, I suppose it wasn't a bad old year for Irish racing.

A world record of top-level wins for one of our trainers. Eight of the ten Classic winners hailed from here. A record-breaking 19 Cheltenham winners to Britain's nine, including the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner. The 1-2-3 in the Melbourne Cup with the winner trained by a 24-year-old. It's been quite a year, all right.

The 15th annual Horse Racing Ireland awards at the Leopardstown pavilion is the place to reflect and reward. They have revamped the running order; apparently the contribution to the industry award is more important than food. This better be good.

"This award goes to a man who has trained the 1-2-3-4 in the Dewhurst, the 1-2-3 in the Galway Plate, the 1-2-3 in the Arc, three Epsom Derby winners in a row and 12 Irish Derby winners. A man who has made the extraordinary look normal," began Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland.

The duo of prime fillet of Tipperary beef and braised beef roulade deserves to wait – good as it may be. A montage of messages from Irish sporting greats has been put together.

Irish rugby coach Joe Schmidt kicks off the congratulations, followed by Kilkenny hurling manager Brian Cody, three-time golf major winner Padraig Harrington, Irish soccer legend Niall Quinn and former world snooker champion Ken Doherty.

"I take great pleasure out of telling everybody that we have the best trainer in the world. It gives us something to talk about while we're on tour," says Harrington, but Doherty tops that.

"I'm just so glad that you never took up snooker – you'd probably be a champion at that too,” says the 1997 Crucible champion.
If you don't know who they are all talking about, this paper probably isn't for you. Of course, it is Aidan O'Brien.

"Because of you, Ireland sits at the top table of the horseracing industry," said Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. "Your achievements are only outweighed by your modesty."

Seldom has a sentence made so much sense, and right on cue O'Brien delivers the speech we all expected.

Small link in the chain

"On behalf of Annemarie and all the lads, I am so privileged. It is a very big chain and I am just a small link on the chain. I cannot tell you how grateful we are," he says, genuinely humbled by the standing ovation he received.

Down Royal picks up the racecourse of the year award. Richly deserved, was the consensus around the room. There is no need for a stewards' inquiry.

They say the draw is important in the Chester Cup, but it is paramount at the HRI awards. Get stuck beside a boring individual and the ceremony lasts for days. Sit next to the Harringtons and it is over in a flash.

Kate and Emma Harrington are both at my table and it is lucky they are as their marvellous mother has just been announced as the winner of the National Hunt award. Discovering she had never won it before was the first shock. Finding out she only began training when she was 42 was the second one. Finding out that she was 70 topped the lot.

Jessica Harrington: capped a dream season with National Hunt award

"If you had told me I would have the spring I had this time last year I would have definitely sent you to the funny farm," she says to a chorus of laughter.

Gigantic fireplace

Barry O'Neill just started digging the foundations to his new house this morning and now he has got something to put on his mantelpiece as he wins the point-to-point award after beating Derek O'Connor and Jamie Codd to the title. Mind you, he will need a gigantic fireplace as the awards, sculptured by Siobhan Bulfin, apparently weight almost two and a half stone.

Colin Keane is next for a spot of weight-lifting. He edged out Pat Smullen in an epic battle for the Irish Flat jockeys' championship and now he has completed the double, picking up the Flat award.

When you become the youngest winning-trainer of the Melbourne Cup, you probably deserve to pick up the outstanding achievement award so it is no surprise Joseph O'Brien is the recipient. 

Robbie Power celebrates winning the Gold Cup on Sizing John

We have yet to see Sizing John this season but he will turn up at Punchestown on Sunday for the John Durkan as the 2017 horse of the year after rounding off a terrific Tuesday for Harrington. 

Kate, Emma and Jessica all make their way up on to the stage with jockey Robbie Power, who is not afraid to tell it as it is. 

"I have got a good few bollockings off her in my time but the best thing with Jessie is that, once she gets it off her chest, that's it. I love that about her," says Power. 

There is a lot more we love about her too, Robbie. This was a day that belonged to Jessica and Aidan and all those who made 2017 such a wonderful year for Irish racing.


Look back on a sizzling year of racing in the new edition of the Racing Post Annual, which has 208 colour pages packed with the best stories and pictures of 2017. Order now at racingpost.com/shop or call 01933 304858


 

I take great pleasure out of telling everybody that we have the best trainer in the world. It gives us something to talk about while we're on tour
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