Irish racing pay tribute to 'true gent' O'Brien
Glowing tributes were paid by all sections of the industry yesterday following the death of senior National Hunt handicapper Noel O'Brien, who lost his long fight with illness.
O'Brien (57) passed away at St James's Hospital, Dublin. He had undergone surgery for oesophageal cancer in June and had been in the intensive care unit of the hospital ever since. His death came as a result of complications which followed on from the surgery.
The Caragh, Co Kildare native was instrumental in setting up the Anglo-Irish Classifications, which allocates handicap marks to British runners in Ireland and vice versa.
O'Brien had worked for the Turf Club since leaving school and held the role of senior handicapper since 1995.
Chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) Brian Kavanagh stated: "It feels like a like a light has gone out in Irish racing. Noel was an absolute gentleman who had time for everyone. He was passionate about what he did and yet he was very popular in what was often a difficult position in which to keep everybody happy.
"Noel carried out his job with great ease and was a true professional. Everybody respected him. Our deepest sympathy is sent out to his family. He was only 57 but he had been in hospital since June."
Former champion jockey Davy Russell was among those to pay tribute, tweeting: "Very sad to hear of the passing of Noel O'Brien, a true gent. RIP."
Fairyhouse Racecourse tweeted: "So sad to hear of the passing of Noel O'Brien on the run up to Christmas. He was a gentleman and was always there to help anyone in this sport. To his family and huge circle of friends, everyone at Fairyhouse sends their deepest sympathy."
Leopardstown also paid tribute: "Noel O'Brien, a much loved character in Irish Racing who will be sadly missed. Our thoughts are with Noel's friends and family at this very sad time."