Doneraile jockey Darragh O’Keeffe, who set a record of 45 winners when taking the 2019/2020 conditional jockeys’ championship, is one of four contenders to take the title of National Hunt Achievement Award, when the 2020 Horse Racing Ireland Awards are presented at a virtual awards ceremony early next month.
A total of 34 awards nominations have been announced. Cahir’s Shane Crosse is amongst the nominees for the Emerging Talent Award.
The other three nominees for the National Hunt Achievement Award, with O’Keeffe, are: Eugene and Maxine O’Sullivan for their win with It Came To Pass at the Cheltenham Festival; Patrick Mullins who counted Grade 1 winners Sharjah and Faugheen among his haul as he was crowned champion amateur for a record 12th time; and Charles Byrnes who won the Ladbrokes Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival for the third year running.
Seven category winners will be decided by a ballot of the Irish racing media – Horse of the Year, National Hunt Award, National Hunt Achievement Award, Flat Award, Flat Achievement Award, Point-to-Point Award and the Emerging Talent Award, which was presented for the first time last year.
Once again, a public vote will decide the outcome of the 2020 Ride of the Year winner with the contenders to be announced shortly.
Trainers Willie Mullins, Gordon Elliott and Henry De Bromhead and jockeys Rachael Blackmore and Paul Townend are the five nominated in the National Hunt Award category. There are also five nominees for the Flat Award: Ger Lyons, Johnny Murtagh, Aidan O’Brien, Joseph O’Brien and champion jockey Colin Keane.
There are six nominees for the Flat Achievement Award: Kieran Cotter for his handling of six-time handicap winner A Step Too Far; Donnacha O’Brien for his Classic and Group 1 success in his first season as a trainer; Dermot Weld for his Classic/Group 1 double at ParisLongchamp and the Curragh in September; Tony Mullins for his success at home and abroad with Princess Zoe; Emmet McNamara who landed the biggest win of his career in the Epsom Derby on Serpentine and Seamie Heffernan who cemented his position as one of the most successful Irish jockeys of all time with a host of top-level successes in 2020.
The Point-to-Point category is made up of Colin Bowe, Barry O’Neill, Mark O’Hare and Rob James while the nominees for the Emerging Talent Award are all jockeys: Group 1 heroes Joey Sheridan and Shane Crosse; the champion apprentice for 2020, Gavin Ryan; Dylan Browne McMonagle who has effortlessly established himself as one of the leading apprentice riders and conditional jockey Sean O’Keeffe who is riding high in the National Hunt jockeys’ championship and who rode out his claim when winning the Cork Grand National on Sunday.
The five nominations for Horse of the Year are dual Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo, his fellow National Hunt stars Envoi Allen and Honeysuckle, dual Classic winner Love and the multiple Group 1 winner Magica.