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Murray first past post at HRI awards

Champion trainers and jockeys of the past, current and probably the future gathered amongst other members of the Irish racing fraternity to enjoy the annual Horse Racing Ireland awards at Leopardstown this week.

There were six awards to be handed out, the winners of which were voted on by members of the Irish press, and a standing ovation was received by the winner of the Contribution to the Industry award.

RTE's Colm Murray was in attendance to pick up that award which he received from HRI CEO Brian Kavanagh to follow on from previous winners such as Michael Kinane, Dave Fox, the Galway Race Committee, Con Collins and Kevin Prendergast.

Murray was recognised for his tireless efforts in getting racing into the mainstream of prime time television and his extensive coverage of the sport from all over the world over the past two decades.

The witty broadcaster kept the audience laughing throughout his acceptance speech by not just reminiscing over his years at RTE and his struggles to have racing as a prominent feature on the sports news, but doing so with a demeanour any comedian would be proud of.

Murray is also an owner with Willie Mullins, and the Evening Herald were honoured to present Mullins with the National Hunt award which he won from fellow nominees Ruby Walsh, Charles Byrnes and Gigginstown House Stud.

The champion trainer had yet another memorable year courtesy of two Cheltenham Festival winners and a remarkable tally of 12 at the Punchestown Festival, which included Hurricane Fly and Golden Silver.

The Flat award was won by Michael Halford who enjoyed a tremendous season courtesy mainly of Casamento who claimed the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster and in turn provided the Kildare trainer with his first ever Group One success.

For the first time ever there was joint winners to one of the HRI awards as both Katie Walsh and Jessica Harrington received the same amount of votes to jointly claim the Outstanding Achievement award.

Walsh famously travelled to Cheltenham in March without an intended ride at the Festival and left it with two winners, enjoying success there for the first time courtesy of Poker De Sivola before doubling that tally later in the week on Thousand Stars for Willie Mullins.

Harrington enjoyed her best season ever on the Flat both numerically and in terms of talent. The trainer who joked on stage that she never managed to win a HRI award with the great chaser Moscow Flyer, was nominated for her efforts with now Classic hopefuls Pathfork and Laughing Lashes.

Derek O'Connor was described as holding nearly every record that is possible in point-to-pointing so it was little surprise that he managed to claim the Point-To-Point award for a fourth successive year, and it was collected by his mother Jean as O'Connor was busy adding another winner to his tally at a meeting in Cork.

Sea The Stars was the clear cut winner of the Horse of the Year award last year and for this year the winner was from the jumping ranks as Colm Murphy's Champion Chaser saw off competition from the likes of Cape Blanco, Pathfork, Quevega and Sizing Europe, as well as Rite Of Passage, to claim the coveted accolade.