Retired jockeys Katie Walsh and Nina Carberry, who brought the curtain down on outstanding careers with winners at the Punchestown Festival in April, were honoured with the inaugural Irish Racing Hero Award at the annual Horse Racing Ireland Awards in Dublin last week. It was a fairytale night for women jockeys with one of the stars of the current jumps season, jockeys’ title leader Rachael Blackmore, also taking an award. Irish Racing Hero Award winners Walsh and Carberry retIred as two of Irish racing’s most celebrated amateur riders at the Punchestown Festival in April. They both enjoyed stellar careers, becoming household names by riding winners on the biggest stages in Ireland and Britain, as well as Australia, France and Germany.
They each graced the winner’s enclosure at the Cheltenham Festival on multiple occasions, won an Irish Grand National apiece and countless other races on the Flat, in bumpers, over hurdles and over fences. Alpha Centauri, owned by the Niarchos family, was the outstanding star of the summer Flat season and was the deserving winner of the Horse of the Year Award. Four times a Group One winner, a run started when bouncing back to winning form with a taking victory in the Irish 1000 Guineas in May, it was followed by a famous Royal Ascot win in the Coronation Stakes before she went on to land the Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket and the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville. Dr Adrian McGoldrick, who retIres this year as chief medical officer of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board, was presented with the Contribution to the Industry Award.
Donnacha O’Brien was the winner of the Flat Award. In a sensational year, Donnacha was crowned Champion Jockey for the first time with a total of 111 winners and won his first Classics in 2018 in both Ireland and England when taking the Newmarket 2000 Guineas on Saxon Warrior and the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby on Latrobe, trained by his brother Joseph. He also landed the Epsom Oaks on Forever Together and further Group One successes with 2yos Ten Sovereigns, Fairyland and Magna Grecia. Rachael Blackmore landed the National Hunt Achievement Award. She recently regained her lead at the head of the jockeys’ championship, maintaining her sensational winning form. The Flat Achievement Award went to Curragh trainer Patrick Prendergast.
He enjoyed a memorable season with Skitter Scatter, who rose through the ranks to land the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes at The Curragh on Irish Champions Weekend. Initially a Dundalk maiden winner, she went on to land the Group 3 Silver Flash Stakes at Leopardstown and Group 2 Debutante Stakes at The Curragh before her major end of season success in the Moyglare.