Pat Smullen and Ruby Walsh, were honoured with the Irish Racing Hero Award at this year's Horse Racing Ireland Awards.
Trainer Jessica Harrington, top jockey Rachael Blackmore and dual Aintree Grand National winner Tiger Roll were also among the winners at the horseracing awards bash.
The Irish Racing Hero Award goes to two racing superstars Pat Smullen and Ruby Walsh 🌟
Two men who mean so much to our sport 👏👏#HRIAwards pic.twitter.com/hZqJJeDbid
— Horse Racing Ireland (@HRIRacing) December 10, 2019
Irish Racing Hero Award winners Pat Smullen and Ruby Walsh, widely regarded as two of the all-time great jockeys, retired within days of each other earlier this year. Nine-time Flat champion Pat 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.
The campaign culminated with the Pat Smullen Champions Race for Cancer Trials Ireland at the Curragh and raised over €2.5m for charity.
Ruby bowed out with Grade 1 success at the Punchestown Festival after his own stellar career. Crowned National Hunt jockey in Ireland on 12 occasions, his record in big jump races around the globe was second to none.
Ruby was the leading rider at the Cheltenham Festival on 11 occasions and retired with a record 59 winners at the meeting to his name.
Tiger Roll, owned by Gigginstown House Stud, is one of the most popular horses in training and was the runaway winner of the Horse Of The Year Award.
Your winner - Tiger Roll. pic.twitter.com/NdfU1c1iuw
— Jodie Standing (@jode2k75) April 6, 2019
In April of this year, 'Tiger' became the first horse since Red Rum in 1973 and 1974 to record back-to-back wins in the Aintree Grand National having notched up his fourth win at the Cheltenham Festival only the month before.
The National Hunt Award went to Rachael Blackmore whose achievements on the racecourse were being acknowledged for the second successive year.
Blackmore has cemented her position as one of the leading jockeys in the country with a second-place finish in last season’s jockeys’ championship and a string of big-race victories throughout the season.
The former champion conditional rode her first winners at the Cheltenham Festival in March on A Plus Tard and Minella Indo and enjoyed three Grade One winners in 2019.
Jessica Harrington is the winner of the Flat Award. The exciting Albigna landed the Group 2 Airlie Stud Stakes at the Curragh for Harrington on Derby weekend before winning the prestigious Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac at Longchamp on Arc day. There was also top-level success for the stable when Millisle won the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket.
The National Hunt Achievement Award went to Gavin Cromwell. Gavin continues to go from strength to strength and enjoyed a terrific 12 months with the undoubted highlight being his first winner at the Cheltenham Festival in March with the late Espoir D’allen winning the Champion Hurdle.
So sorry to hear about the passing of @UnibetRacing Champion Hurdle winner, Espoir D'Allen.
Our thoughts are with @gavincromwell1 and all connections.
Here he is, stealing the show on Day One of The Festival™ presented by @MagnersUK 2019. pic.twitter.com/WkHvxNuVyy
— CheltenhamRacecourse (@CheltenhamRaces) August 23, 2019
The Flat Achievement Award went to Corkman Wayne Lordan who had a terrific time of things in 2019, beginning the season with success on Hermosa in the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket and rounding off the year with a first Breeders’ Cup win on Iridessa, adding to their wins in the Pretty Polly Stakes and the Coolmore Fastnet Rock Matron Stakes on Longines Irish Champions Weekend.
Darragh O'Keeffe is the winner of the inaugural Emerging Talent Award. Standing out amongst several hugely promising young National Hunt jockeys, Darragh landed his 60th success and rode out his claim when winning the Cork National. That win capped an incredible rise for the young rider who had his first winner only 16 months previously.
Naas Racecourse was the winner of the Racecourse of the Year Award. From all 26 racecourses, the County Kildare venue came out on top 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.
Brian Kavanagh, Chief Executive of HRI, said: “This is a very special occasion as we look back on another successful year for our industry. Our ‘heroes’ Pat Smullen and Ruby Walsh are fully deserving of their awards for all they gave us over so many years and of course, Tony O’Hehir was another to enjoy a fine career in racing journalism, doing so much to promote our sport to the widest possible audience. There could hardly be a more popular horse in training than Tiger Roll and he is a fitting winner of the Horse of the Year Award.”
The winners of the 17th annual awards were:
Irish Racing Hero Award: Pat Smullen & Ruby Walsh
Contribution to the Industry Award: Tony O’Hehir
Horse of the Year Award: Tiger Roll
Emerging Talent Award: Darragh O'Keeffe
National Hunt Award: Rachael Blackmore
National Hunt Achievement Award: Gavin Cromwell
Flat Award: Jessica Harrington
Flat Achievement Award: Wayne Lordan
Point-to-Point Award: Colin Bowe
Ride of the Year Award: Billy Lee
Racecourse of the Year Award: Naas Racecourse