Monday, January 09, 2006Contact: Tamarisk Doyle, HRI
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The 2005 Irish Racing Year Reviewed

2005 was a year of unprecedented success for Irish racing with numerous big race successes both at home and abroad. Macs Joy just got up to beat Brave Inca and Hardy Eustace in a thrilling AIG Europe Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown while Rule Supreme gave trainer Willie Mullins a sixth victory in the last seven runnings of the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup. In February, the Michael O’Brien trained Essex landed the Totesport Trophy Hurdle at Newbury while there were a record nine Irish trained winners at the new four day Cheltenham Festival in March with Hardy Eustace, Moscow Flyer and Kicking King winning the Smurfit Champion Hurdle, the Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Totesport Gold Cup. At Aintree the following month, there were eight Irish trained winners with the Willie Mullins trained Hedgehunter justifying favouritism in the John Smith’s Grand National to give jockey Ruby Walsh a second victory in the race while Moscow Flyer, Al Eile and Asian Maze all contributed to another impressive tally.

The Powers Gold Label Irish Grand National was won by the Martin Brassil trained Numbersixvalverde while the runner up on that occasion was Ted Walsh’s Jack High who went on to gain handsome compensation in the Betfred Gold Cup at Sandown. The Punchestown Festival was once again a major success with Kicking King rounding off a tremendous campaign with an easy victory in the Guinness Punchestown Gold Cup while Jessica Harrington’s Moscow Flyer just failed to make it twenty wins from twenty completed starts over fences when losing out by a short head to old rival, Rathgar Beau, in the Kerrygold Champion Chase and Colm Murphy’s Brave Inca gained his just desserts for a series of fine efforts with a hard fought victory over Harchibald in the Emo Oil Champion Hurdle.

On the flat Aidan O’Brien and jockey Kieren Fallon dominated the flat season both in Ireland and Great Britain as they combined to land three English Classics with Virginia Waters taking the 1000 Guineas, Footstepsinthesand winning the 2000 Guineas and Scorpion landing the St Leger at Doncaster. There were four Irish trained winners at the Royal Ascot meeting (held at York) with Azamour’s victory in the Prince Of Wales Stakes the highlight of the quartet while the same horse went on to take the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Newbury in great style. Aidan O’Brien’s Oratorio lowered the colours of Epsom Derby winner, Motivator, in the Coral Eclipse Stakes at Sandown in early July before beating the same horse in the Baileys Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown in early September.

Trainer Frances Crowley beame the first female licensed trainer to win an Irish Classic when Saoire landed the Boylesports Irish 1000 Guineas which was the only Classic kept at home this year. Kieren Fallon’s tremendous year was capped with a first ever win in the Budweiser Irish Derby on Andre Fabre’s Hurricane Run while Shawanda ran out a most impressive winner of the Darley Irish Oaks in the colours of H.H. The Aga Khan. Vinnie Roe’s bid for a record fifth consecutive victory in the Irish Field St Leger failed as he had to settle for third place behind Alan Swinbank’s Collier Hill while George Washington, Horatio Nelson and Rumplestiltskin all proved successful at Group One level and give trainer Aidan O’Brien a very strong hand for the 2006 Classics.

Ruby Walsh was crowned Champion National Hunt Jockey in Ireland for a third time while Pat Smullen also captured his third Champion Jockey’s Crown and there was more big race success in England when Noel Meade saddled Harchibald to win the Bula Hurdle at Cheltenham in early December on the same day that he sent out Sir Oj to win the Robin Cook Memorial Gold Cup while to round off a wonderful year for Irish trained horses Kicking King landed his second consecutive King George VI Chase at Sandown on St Stephen’s Day and Colm Murphy’s Feathard Lady propelled herself to the forefront on the betting on the Smurfit Champion Hurdle with an impressive win in the Christmas Hurdle.

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