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HRI winners richly deserved awards

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Barry and Marian Cash after winning the HRI Outstanding Achievement Award. Photo: Patrick McCann

Barry and Marian Cash after winning the HRI Outstanding Achievement Award. Photo: Patrick McCann

Johnny Murtagh and Ella McSweeney after winning the HRI Flat Award. Photo: Patrick McCann

Johnny Murtagh and Ella McSweeney after winning the HRI Flat Award. Photo: Patrick McCann

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Barry and Marian Cash after winning the HRI Outstanding Achievement Award. Photo: Patrick McCann

ANOTHER year almost up and another HRI Awards have been and gone.

Leopardstown Racecourse was the venue once again on Monday and a fitting one at that, considering it will be the centre of the horseracing universe for four days later this month.

You only have to look at those who were in the room that didn't win an award to realise how vintage a year it was for Irish racing.

To name just a few, there was the champion jump jockey Davy Russell and Cheltenham's leading rider, Ruby Walsh, and the record-holder for most wins on the flat in a year, Joseph O'Brien, who overtook the previous record set by Mick Kinane.

Jamie Codd won the Point to Point Award. He saw off 10-time point-to-point-winning rider Derek O'Connor; Declan McNamara, the trainer of Champion Hunter Chaser Mossey Joe; Rodger Sweeney, handler of Salsify, who won the Cheltenham Foxhunter for a second year; and Gordon Elliott, who was leading handler.

 

EXPLOITS

All of those nominated in the Outstanding Achievement category would have easily had one of the fine bronze sculptures that were handed out to the winners sitting on their mantelpiece.

But Barry Cash was certainly delighted to have won the Outstanding Achievement Award following his exploits with the Peter Maher-trained Big Shu, and he said it was made that bit more special the fact it was on a public vote.

Cash won by 33 votes but I had to laugh when he told me: "I couldn't even vote. I have this phone (iPhone) but I've no feckin' iTunes or whatever and I couldn't download the app."

There was no need to worry though, out of the near 1,300 people who did download the app, Cash was deemed the most worthy winner of an award he dedicated to his wife and family.

The app and public vote was a great introduction by Horse Racing Ireland and something they are looking to build on again next year.

I would be interested to see the age profile of those who downloaded the app and I would say that the majority may have been under 25 or so, which just proves that there are a lot of younger people willing to get involved and with a strong interest in racing, and that is surely something that the majority of racecourses should be conscious of when they are trying to promote their meetings.

Leopardstown Racecourse were unsurprisingly recognised for entertainment, with their Thursday nights in the summer being a huge success, while Naas were rightfully awarded the most family-friendly racecourse in the country.

However, the most surprising announcement came when Dundalk was announced Racecourse of the Year. There was no surprise in them winning the award, but the surprise came when in their victory speech they announced plans to become the first all-weather, floodlit jumps track, having lodged plans with the authorities last week, and it'll be very interesting to see how that develops over time.

Another great day, and if we have that much to celebrate and such deserving candidates in 12 months' time, 2014 will have been another fantastic year for Irish racing both at home and abroad.


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