Doneraile jockey nominated for National Hunt Award

YET ANOTHER WINNER IN 2021 - Chatham Street Lad and Darragh O'Keeffe, a winner of the Hugh McMahon Memorial Novice Steeplechase (Grade 3) at Limerick back in March.

Doneraile jockey, Darragh O’Keeffe, has been named among 40 nominees for the 2021 Horse Racing Ireland Awards.

The 21-year old was named as one of four National Hunt Award category nominees alongside trainers Henry de Bromhead and Willie Mullins and fellow jockey Paul Townend.

Speaking with The Avondhu this week, Darragh said that it was ‘brilliant’ to have received the nomination, among some of the biggest names in the sport.

“It’s brilliant obviously, any time you get a nomination by Horse Racing Ireland is great. To be announced on the same nomination as the likes of Henry de Bromhead, Willie Mullins and Paul Townend, it’s just great to be nominated alongside their names,” Darragh enthused.

WINNERS KEEP COMING

Last Christmas, Darragh made the Grade 1 breakthrough on his first ride at the highest level, when winning the Savills Chase on the Henry de Bromhead-trained A Plus Tard at Leopardstown.

A regular visitor to the winner’s enclosure since, Darragh has spent a significant portion of this season as the leading jockey and the winners continue to flow for him.

“It’s been a great season. There’s been plenty of support this year with loads of trainers and rides coming on board and I’ve had quite a lot of winners too, long may it continue,” he said.

While this is Darragh’s first nomination for the National Hunt Award category, in 2019 the young sportsman was among those honoured at the annual Horse Racing Ireland Awards, winning the Emerging Talent Award.

In 2020, he was named the Champion Conditional Jockey after securing the title with 45 winners in the 2019-2020 National Hunt Season.

‘IN OUR DNA’

According to Darragh, he became involved with horses and racing from a young age, primarily due to a family tradition.

“All my family are involved in horses. My dad was a jockey, and my grandfather used to ride too. My cousin is a jockey in England. Horses are just in our DNA.

“As far back as I can remember, we were always involved with horses and ponies,” Darragh said.

The local jockey was 18 years of age when he rode his first winner on the Enda Bolger-trained William Du Berlais at Killarney in July 2018 and by early November 2019, Darragh rode his 60th winner when landing the Cork Grand National on the Michael Hourigan-trained The Gatechecker.

With 44 winners under his belt in the 2020/2021 season and a further 42 for the 2021/22 season thus far, the nomination is a well earned one for the young jockey.

The 2021 National Hunt Award will be decided by a ballot of the Irish racing media, along with six other categories. Tuesday, December 7 will see the winners of the 2021 Horse Racing Ireland Awards announced.