THE high achievers in sport in Kilkenny during 2011 were honoured through the Hotel Kilkenny and Kilkenny People sports star scheme at a glittering annual gala dinner in Hotel Kilkenny on Friday night.
The stars honoured during the various months were feted for their achievements, and the two top gongs, the Supreme and Endeavour Awards were also presented.
The Supreme Award, which is generally recognised as the top accolate in sport in the county, went to star jockey, Joseph O’Brien, from Piltown, who was unable to attend because he was racing in Dundalk.
The top apprentice and star of the Breeders Cup was ably represented by his parents, Aidan and Ann Marie O’Brien, who collected his monthly and Supreme Awards on his behalf.
A special Supreme Award was commissioned to mark the 25th anniversary of the scheme. It was crafted by KDW based gold and silversmith, Des Byrne, whose lengthy array of exquisite pieces includes the new Sam Maguire Cup, the trophy for the winners of the All-Ireland senior football championship.
To mark an unbroken spell of 25 years on the Awards Selection Committee, Noel Skehan, the former Kilkenny goalkeeping great, was given the honour of presenting the Supreme Award to Aidan O’Brien on behalf of his son.
The second big prize, the Endeavour Award, went to the Kilkenny and District youths team that won the FAI Umbro inter-league cup final for the first time in 27 years. The award was accepted on behalf of the team by captain, Declan McQuillan.
Griffin Hotel group managing-director, Liam Griffin, presented the Endeavour Award and congratulated all the winners, which he described as a stunning list of high achievers.
The season of highs enjoyed by Supreme winner, Joseph O’Brien, were read to the captains of industry and sport and invited guests by MC Ger Cody.
The citation read:
“My oh my, where to begin is the question because there is so much to relate in terms of achievement from the 2011 season that was like no other.
There were personal wins at home and abroad; wins on different continents; wins involving the family and history making in all part as well.
Storm of victories
At the centre of the storm of victories and high achievements is a youngster who once wrote that the best piece of advice he ever received was simply to “always do your best”.
Well, he most certainly did that.....in spades...........
Joseph O’Brien, son of Piltown, County Kilkenny, who is attached to the Ballydoyle stable run by his famous dad, Aidan O’Brien, rewrote the records in horse racing on a number of fronts.
His victory aboard St Nicholas Abbey in the Breeders Cup in Churchill Downs, Kentucky, in November was probably the highlight in a string of highlights.
At 18 years and 5 months, Joseph O’Brien was the the youngest ever winner of a Breeders Cup race.
For the record, he took the record from Ferrando Jara, who was 18 years and 10 months when he won a Breeders Cup race in 2006.
There was an historic dimension for the family in Kentucky as well. Aidan O’Brien was the only overseas trainer to produce a winner at the 2011 meeting.
Actually, he did it at the double, having saddled Wrote to win the Juvenile Turf event prior to the big race.
St Nicholas Abbey is trained by Aidan O’Brien, so Joseph and Aidan went into the history books as the first father and son/trainer and jockey combination to win the event.
According to one learned commentator, Joseph’s performance was that of a seasoned, top flight jockey rather than one who rode his first winner in May 2009.
He was poised and patient during the opening 10 furlong, stalking English raider Sea Moon into the straight. He allowed Sea Moon to run down the leader, Brilliant Speed, before sweeping past them both to take the race and winners pot of $3-million.”
Dream come true
“I got the gaps when I needed them, and he picked up really well,”Joseph was reported as saying afterwards.”Its a dream come true.”
“Joseph wasn’t only the youngest winner of the ’Cup. Standing at 5’ 11” he was possibly the tallest too.
Another highlight from the season was the Irish 2000 Guineas win on Roderic O’Connor just two days before his 18th birthday in May.
There was more. Joseph O’Brien was also the champion apprentice jockey. Almost inevitably, there was a record involved.
He ran up a phenomenal 57 wins during the season, which for a man who struggles to make the 9 stone weight was some going. That 57 mark was a record too, out-stripping the previous best of 54 recorded by the great Paul Cerberry.
Another major milestone during the season was the winning of the Racing Post Trophy on Camelot, which was his first Group I winner in England.”
So who is this Joseph O’Brien, jockey extraordinary? During our trawl through the records we unearthed an interesting questions and answers piece with Joseph on the goracing.ie website.
Here goes, from the man himself:
Best moment outside of racing: Winning a bronze medal at the European Pony Championships in 2009.
Favourite restaurant: The Cashel Palace hotel.
Favourite food: Chicken.
Person you most admire: All the top jockeys are an inspiration to me.
Favourite book: Any of the racing autobiographies like Ruby, AP and Mick Kinane.
Favourite film: Man About Dog.
Favourite football team: Man United.
Excited by: Riding winners.
Well, by his own admission so Joseph O’Brien must have enjoyed a very, very, very exciting year during 2011.
The Hotel Kilkenny and Kilkenny People sports star committee saluted Joseph O’Brien - extraordinary talent, extraordinary jockey as the Supreme Award winner of 2011.