O'Brien father-son duo romp to victory at racing awards
THERE may have been seven winners, but the 'royal family' of horse racing, the O'Briens, swept the boards at the annual Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) awards this year.
The who's who of Irish horse racing turned out to toast the best in the industry in 2012, and leading the way by much more than a nose were father-son trainer and jockey duo Aidan and Joseph O'Brien.
Now in its 10th year, the HRI ceremony saw 230 jockeys, trainers and owners arrive to commend their peers and competitors' achievements.
Nominated in the same category, it was a case of of friendly head-to-head between 19-year-old Joseph and his father – but the jockey took home the coveted Flat award.
He became the youngest rider to be crowned Champion Jockey in Ireland for over 50 years, just three years after riding his first winner on Johann Zoffany at Leopardstown.
Anne Marie O'Brien, proud mother of the teenage prodigy dubbed the 'baby face assassin', told the Irish Independent of her delight to see Joseph receive recognition after a hugely successful flat season.
"It's wonderful, he's doing really well and we're really proud of him."
She said that while it could be nerve-racking as a mother to watch him, she fully believed in Joseph's ability on the track.
"He's good at what he does and has had a lot of experience since he was very young. Of course you'd be nervous for him, but you don't think about that."
Horse of the Year, Camelot, who is trained by Aidan O'Brien, won out against Dawn Approach, Excelebration, Hurricane Fly, Quevega and Sizing Europe.
Anne Marie commented on the dynamic between Aidan and Camelot jockey Joseph, a partnership which saw them take the Epsom Derby prize last summer. "It's the kind of industry that you have to be fully involved in and give all your time to, to do well. It works well between them because they know and understand how each other operates."
Hosted at Leopardstown Racecourse in Dublin yesterday, the awards were presented by Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney, who spoke of the importance of maintaining Irish success on an international stage. "An event like this is about celebrating success of another fantastic year where Ireland remains right at the top of the countries in the world for producing, breeding and training racehorses," he said.
Fellow winners on the day included Dublin-based trainer Peter Casey, for his efforts with rated novice chaser Flemenstar.
Casey said that he was overjoyed to finally take home the prize for Outstanding Achievement. The trainer, who has become a YouTube sensation since his famous televised interview with racing pundit Tracy Piggott, was joined by his wife at the ceremony.
Casey expressed his hopes to see Flemenstar secure the Gold Cup and admitted it would be better than seeing Dublin reclaim the All-Ireland football title.
Other award recipients included champion jockey Davy Russell, who took home the National Hunt Award. The Point-to-Point accolade was received by Coleman Sweeney, while the team at Moyglare stud were commended for their Contribution to the Industry. The accolade was accepted by owner Eva-Maria Bucher Haefner and manager Stan Cosgrave.
There was also a new addition to the categories, Racecourse of the Year.
It was won by the team at Ballinrobe Racecourse in Co Mayo.