Training great Dessie Hughes dies

Dessie Hughes, pictured here with jockey Bryan Cooper, has been described as a true gentleman

Dessie Hughes, pictured here with jockey Bryan Cooper, has been described as a true gentleman

Training great Dessie Hughes has died, aged 71.

He enjoyed huge success not only in the training ranks but also as a jockey, riding Monksfield to win the Champion Hurdle in 1979 and also saddling Hardy Eustace to victory in the Cheltenham Festival highlight in 2004 and 2005.

Hughes, who had been battling illness, is survived by his wife Eileen, son and three-time champion Flat jockey Richard and daughter Sandra.

Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland, tweeted: "RIP Dessie Hughes. A great trainer, great jockey and an absolute gentleman. Sympathies to Eileen, Richard and Sandra."

Conor O'Dwyer, who rode Hardy Eustace in both his Champion Hurdle triumphs, said: "There's gentlemen and then there was Dessie Hughes.

"I've ridden for many good people during my career, but Dessie really stood out as a proper gentleman.

"We had some brilliant times together, some of the best times of my career. No one ever had a bad word to say about Dessie, and Dessie never had a bad word to say about anyone.

"He'd had some hard times, but he'd come through and seemed to be enjoying the best of his career. It's a sad day for everyone and for racing."

Eddie O'Leary, racing manager for leading owners Gigginstown House Stud, who had horses with Hughes, said: "He was a fantastic trainer and a lovely man. He was a true gent.

"He will be sorely and deeply missed by all in racing.

"Thunder Of Roses will not run at Punchestown today as a mark of respect to the man."

Another of Hughes's patrons was Barry Connell, who sent him the exciting novice chaser The Tullow Tank at the start of this season and also owned top hurdler Our Conor.

He said: "The first thing to say about Dessie is that he was an absolute gentleman.

"He had a fantastic career in racing. As a jockey he rode the winner of a Gold Cup and a Champion Hurdle.

"As a trainer, he trained the Champion Hurdle winner twice. He was a man who was very loyal to his staff and respected them a lot.

"He was very much an old school trainer, who was very hands on and took great pride in his horses and his staff.

"He also took great pride in his family, particularly Richard. It was marvellous he was able to see him be champion jockey.

"I think one of his best attributes was his ability to train. When he got a good horse he was able to keep him sound year after year and the horses always ran to their highest level of form.

"He'll be sadly missed."

Paul Hensey, general manager at the Curragh racecourse, said: "He was a gentleman through and through.

"He was a great trainer, a great rider and he was on our Curragh trainers liaison committee for some time. It was always a great pleasure to deal with him and to work for.

"It's very sad for his family and everybody who has worked for him."

When Hughes drove Monksfield to victory in the 1979 Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, the partnership withstood the challenge of Sea Pigeon, ridden by Jonjo O'Neill, by three-quarters of a length.

O'Neill, a highly-successful trainer at Jackdaws Castle himself, tweeted: "So sad to hear of passing of Dessie Hughes. We had some great tussles in the past and he was a lovely man."

Roger Loughran has been part of the Hughes team for many years and rode a lot of the stable's good horses to victory including Schindlers Hunt to two Grade One triumphs, Central House, Black Apalachi and Grangeclare Lark.

He said: "It's very sad. I rode plenty of top winners in good races for him.

"One of his best attributes was his attention to detail. It was second to none.

"He ate and slept racing the whole time.

"He would get the last ounce out of every horse. He would get the best out of them and that's what made him so outstanding.

"Every day he'd been out in the yard at seven o'clock in the morning."

Bryan Cooper was the stable jockey for a while before he was appointed retained rider for Gigginstown.

He tweeted: "He was one of the greatest trainers that we've ever seen and by far the best mentor and friend anyone could ever ask for. RIP Dessie Hughes."

Leading Irish jockey Barry Geraghty rode Guitar Pete to victory in the Grade One Spring Juvenile Hurdle for Hughes at Leopardstown in February.

He tweeted: "Very sad news to hear of Dessie Hughes's passing. A legend of our sport and thorough gentleman, all our thoughts are with his family. RIP."

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