Jessica Harrington was among the big winners at the annual Horse Racing Ireland Awards.
The Moone-based trainer clinched the National Hunt award ahead of the likes of Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins, while her Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Sizing John was named Horse of the Year at a glamorous reception at Leopardstown racecourse.
Harrington said: “I started training at 42 with a six-month-old child, so it was total madness!”
Horse of the Year Award Winner Sizing John, collected by Emma Harrington, Jessica Harrington, Robbie Power and Kate Harrington. Pic: INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Sizing John has won four races since the turn of the year, becoming the first horse in history to win the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown, the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Punchestown Gold Cup. He is due to make his seasonal reappearance in Sunday’s John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown.
Harrington also saddled Our Duke to win the Irish Grand National and several winners at the Punchestown Festival during a spectacular climax to the last campaign.
The trainer added: “If you’d told me this time last year about the spring I’d have, I would have definitely sent you to the funny farm!
“It got in a roll in January when Sizing John won the Kinloch Brae and it didn’t stop until the end of April. It was absolutely amazing.
“It’s not just us at the top, every single person that works for me has had a hand in the success.”
Aidan O’Brien was on hand to claim the Contribution to the Industry Award after breaking the worldwide record for number of Group One winners trained in a calendar year.
“I can’t tell you are how grateful we are for this. It’s the last thing I ever expected,” said the Ballydoyle handler.
“Everybody knows our operation is a big chain, we’re a small link in the chain and feel very privileged to be the link we are.
“We’re always afraid to set goals because it’s very rare it happens. We always take it one day at a time, one race at a time and see what happens.
“We’re in a very lucky position to be working with the people that we are and with the supply of horses that we have.”
Asked if he could name his favourite horse, the trainer added: “We’ve been lucky to have a lot of great horses. Galileo speaks for himself and when we had Istabraq we always felt we’d never get another one like him.
“He came out of the blue and he was an incredibly special horse. We always felt that no matter what he was up against, we were always confident that he was better.”
Aidan’s son Joseph was given the Outstanding Achievement award after saddling Rekindling to win last month’s Melbourne Cup.
O’Brien junior was not present, but said via video message: “Firstly I’d like to congratulate all the other nominees for this award. I thought it was an unbelievably strong category and I’m really humbled to have won it.
“I’d like to thank all the people that voted and the racing press.”
Colin Keane took the Flat Racing award after being crowned Ireland’s champion Flat jockey for the first time this year.
Barry O’Neill won the Point-to-Point Racing award and Down Royal was named Racecourse of the Year.