Cork's Darragh O'Keeffe picks up prestigious Horse Racing Ireland award

The public voted to recognise the Doneraile native for his winning effort on A Plus Tard 
Cork's Darragh O'Keeffe picks up prestigious Horse Racing Ireland award

A Plus Tard and Darragh O'Keeffe (left) beats Kemboy (David Mullins)and Melon (Patrick Mullins) for owners Cheveley Park Stud and trainer Henry de Bromhead. Picture: Healy Racing.

CORK jockey Darragh O'Keeffe was among the winners at the 2021 Horse Racing Ireland Awards.

The Doneraile native was honoured with the Ride Of The Year Award for his winning effort on A Plus Tard in the Savills Chase at last year’s Leopardstown Christmas Festival. 

It was Darragh’s first outing in a Grade 1 race and he made the most of the opportunity to land one of the biggest races of the National Hunt season. 

The Ride of the Year Award is chosen each year by a public vote.

History makers Henry de Bromhead and Colin Keane were also honoured. 

For her tireless work in ensuring that racing continued to run smoothly and safely during the Covid-19 pandemic, Dr Jennifer Pugh, Senior Medical Officer of the IHRB, has been honoured with the Contribution to the Industry Award while Rachael Blackmore was previously announced this year’s Racing Hero Award winner.

19th Annual HRI awards winners:

Contribution to the Industry: Dr Jennifer Pugh.

Irish Racing Hero: Rachael Blackmore.

Horse of the Year: Honeysuckle.

Emerging Talent: Dylan Browne McMonagle.

National Hunt: Henry de Bromhead.

National Hunt Achievement: Paul Hennessy.

Point-to-Point: John Nallen.

Flat: Colin Keane.

Flat Achievement: Ado McGuinness.

Ride of the Year: Darragh O'Keeffe.

Henry de Bromhead is the winner of the National Hunt Award. In March, he broke new ground when becoming the first trainer to win the Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase and the Gold Cup at the Cheltenham Festival in the same year. He again rewrote the record books a matter of weeks later when becoming only the second trainer, and the first since 1908, to saddle the first two horses home in the Aintree Grand National.

The Flat Award goes to champion jockey Colin Keane. Colin was the star performer of the 2021 Irish Flat Season, dominating from a jockeys point of view as he captured 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.

The Kenny Alexander-owned Honeysuckle again won all before her and takes the Horse of the Year Award. Easily the most popular horse in training, she topped a remarkable season with success in the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. She rounded off last season when winning the Champion Hurdle at Punchestown at the end of April and made a stunning start to her 2021/2022 campaign with a third successive win in the Grade 1 Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse last month.

From Letterkenny, County Donegal, Dylan Browne McMonagle crowns a terrific year with the Emerging Talent Award. He rode an impressive 48 winners to become champion apprentice and his season’s highlights included a first Group race success on Baron Samedi and a first win at Listed level with Mighty Blue, two of the 24 winners he rode during the season for Joseph O'Brien.

Success at both the Dublin Racing Festival and the Cheltenham Festival with Heaven Help Us sees Paul Hennessy win the National Hunt Achievement Award. The mare was one of the star performers at the beginning of the year, racing to victory 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 on each occasion by Richie Condon.

John Nallen had three weeks last spring that will last a lifetime and is the winner of the Point-to-Point Award. Two horses that started out with him in the point-to-pointing field went on to win two of the biggest prizes in racing.

Minella Indo, which had made a winning debut for the Clonmel 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 initial success and three weeks later it was the turn of Minella Times to propel John back into the spotlight when racing to Grand National success at Aintree.

Ado McGuinness wins the Flat Achievement Award for his late season success with A Case Of You in the Prix De l’Abbaye. The Lusk-based trainer enjoyed significant premier handicap, Listed and Group race 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.

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