Clonakilty Trainer Ray Hurley will go up against Jockey Colman Sweeney from Kilworth in the Point-to-Point category of the 2012 Horse Racing Ireland Awards, which take place at Leopardstown Racecourse on December 10th. Trainer Michael Winters from Kanturk is nominated for the prestigious Outstanding Achievement Award while Youghal native Davy Russell is a contender for the National Hunt Award.
The Awards acknowledge the human and equine excellence in the sport of horse racing where Ireland continues to achieve enviable success in the highly-contested international arena. Simon Coveney, TD, Minister for Agriculture, Marine and Food will be the Guest of Honour at this year’s awards.
Ray Hurley has received his nomination for the Point-to-Point Award for his achievements with Whyso Mayo over the last decade. He rebuilt Whyso Mayo’s confidence after a poor start to his career to rack up a host of victories before his finest hour in 2006 when he won the Cheltenham Foxhunters’ Chase. He was crowned Champion Hunter Chaser for that season and again the following year when a close second at Cheltenham. Two further years on the sidelines followed but in February, at 15, he won the Open at Bandon, ten years after winning his maiden at that venue. Hurley’s training feat in bringing his stable star back from two lengthy absences to keep Whyso Mayo on top of his game makes him a worthy candidate.
In 2005, Colman Sweeney won the Cheltenham Foxhunters’ Chase for Paul Nicholls on Sleeping Night and only two days later he won the five-year-old maiden at Liscarroll on the subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Denman by 12 lengths. This time last year he lost over a stone in a month to ride a winner at Leadington aboard Green Flag. A little over a month later he steered Salsify to success at Leopardstown and seven years on from his success in the Foxhunters’, he repeated the win. Sweeney and Salsify later combined to become the first horse to follow up the Cheltenham Foxhunters’ with the Champion Hunter Chase at Stratford.
The other contenders for the Point-to-Point Award are Jamie Codd and Derek O’Connor.
Trainer Michael Winters has earned his place in the very competitive Outstanding Achievement category for his handling of one of the most improved hurdlers in 2012, Rebel Fitz. After showing promise in his early starts, Rebel Fitz won a Clonmel maiden before taking the Grade 3 Grimes Hurdle at Tipperary in July. Just 11 days later, he ran out a narrow but decisive winner of the Guinness Galway Hurdle. Bringing an end to a tough few months he then won a conditions hurdle at Cork in August in most impressive fashion.
The other nominees for the Outstanding Achievement category are Peter Casey, Tom Gibney, Tom Hogan, Niall McCullagh and David Nagle.
Jockey Davy Russell, originally from Youghal, is nominated in the National Hunt category after becoming Champion National Hunt Jockey in Ireland for the 2011-2012 season. He enjoyed plenty of big race successes along the way beginning with the JNwine.com Champion Chase on Quito De La Roque at Down Royal in early November and ending up with a fine victory on Rebel Fitz in the Guinness Galway Hurdle in early August. Sir Des Champs was unbeaten in five starts from taking a beginners chase at Fairyhouse in December to winning three Grade 2 races including the Jewson Novice Chase at the Cheltenham Festival while he rounded off his first season with success in the Grade 1 Growise Champion Novice Chase at the Punchestown Festival. Last Instalment was another exciting novice chaser that he was involved with, winning The Florida Pearl Novice Chase at Punchestown in November and the Dr P.J. Moriarty Novice Chase at Leopardstown in February while Dedigout was another Grade 1 scorer at the Punchestown Festival as he landed the Cathal Ryan Memorial Novice Hurdle.
The other nominees for the National Hunt Award are Barry Geraghty, Tony Martin, Tom Mullins and Willie Mullins.
Brian Kavanagh, Chief Executive of HRI said:- “2012 has proved to be another excellent year for Irish trainers and jockeys both at home and abroad, with an impressive tally of eight Irish winners at Royal Ascot and four of the five major races falling to Irish raiders on British Champions Day. Cheltenham saw five Irish-trained winners and no less than 12 Irish-trained seconds, Irish jockeys won 22 of the 27 races and Irish-bred horses won 12 races including six of the Grade 1 contests. At this year’s Melbourne Cup the first seven horses home were Irish-bred.”