Cheltenham heroics earn Hurricane Fly Horse of Year
The stunning Champion Hurdle winner Hurricane Fly was yesterday crowned Horse of the Year for 2011 at the annual Irish Racing Awards.
At a ceremony held in the Pavilion at Leopardstown, where Willie Mullins' exceptional hurdler is expected to reappear on December 29, the seven-year-old Cheltenham hero was suitably rewarded for an unbeaten run at the highest level that now stretches to six. Mullins, crowned champion trainer for a fourth successive time in May and also the leading handler at the Festival in March, was also honoured in the Jumps category for a third time in a row.
The Flat equivalent went the way of teenage riding sensation Joseph O'Brien, who capped a memorable season with his stunning Breeders' Cup Turf triumph at Churchill Downs on his father Aidan's St Nicholas Abbey. Nina Carberry was a popular winner of the Outstanding Achievement gong in respect of her memorable Irish Grand National success on Organisedconfusion at Fairyhouse in April, while the record-breaking eight-time champion rider Derek O'Connor got the nod for a fifth time in the point-to-point division.
The presentations were made by the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney, and the biggest cheer on the day was reserved for Dermot Weld, who received the Contribution to the Industry award. Weld's extensive list of achievements was detailed, with particular emphasis being placed on his international feats.
The first northern hemisphere-based trainer to win the Melbourne Cup with Vintage Crop in 1993 -- Media Puzzle also won for him nine years later -- his Belmont Stakes victory with the Michael Kinane-ridden Go And Go in 1990 remains the only European winner of any of the Triple Crown events in America.