Onward and upward for all-conquering Harrington
Following this year's annus mirabilis, Jessica Harrington is hoping for more of the same in 2018 after being among the big winners at yesterday's annual Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) awards.
The Moone, Co Kildare trainer clinched the National Hunt award ahead of the likes of Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins, while her Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Sizing John was named Horse of the Year at a reception in Leopardstown.
Harrington recalled: "I started training at 42 with a six-month-old child, so it was total madness!"
Sizing John has won four races since the turn of the year, becoming the first horse in history to win the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown, the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Punchestown Gold Cup. He is due to make his seasonal reappearance in Sunday's John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown.
Harrington also saddled Our Duke to win the Irish Grand National and had several winners at the Punchestown Festival during a spectacular climax to the last campaign.
"If you'd told me this time last year about the spring I'd have, I would have definitely sent you to the funny farm," the trainer quipped.
"It got in a roll in January when Sizing John won the Kinloch Brae and it didn't stop until the end of April. It was absolutely amazing. It's not just us at the top, every single person that works for me has had a hand in the success."
Aidan O'Brien was on hand to claim the Contribution to the Industry Award after breaking the worldwide record for number of Group One winners trained in a calendar year.
"I can't tell you are how grateful we are for this. It's the last thing I ever expected," said the Ballydoyle handler.
"Everybody knows our operation is a big chain, we're a small link in the chain and feel very privileged to be the link we are."
Asked if he could name his favourite horse, the trainer added: "We've been lucky to have a lot of great horses. Galileo speaks for himself and when we had Istabraq we always felt we'd never get another one like him. He came out of the blue and he was an incredibly special horse. We always felt that no matter what he was up against, we were always confident that he was better."
Aidan's son Joseph took the Outstanding Achievement award after saddling Rekindling to win last month's Melbourne Cup. Colin Keane took the Flat Racing award after being crowned Champion Flat Jockey for the first time. Barry O'Neill won took the Point-to-Point honours and Down Royal was named Racecourse of the Year.