The news that Irish trainer and racing great, Dessie Hughes, passed away yesterday, aged 71, was met with sadness by all in the racing community and tributes to the great man have continued to pour in from all of those who knew him and his family.
Horse Racing Ireland chief executive and European Pattern Committee chairman Brian Kavanagh tweeted: “RIP Dessie Hughes. A great trainer, great jockey and an absolute gentleman. Sympathies to Eileen, Richard and Sandra.”
His stable jockey, Bryan Cooper who was aboard Our Conor in the 2013 Triumph Hurdle, Hughes’s last Cheltenham Festival winner, 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.”
In a career that has spanned more than 50 years, the iconic jockey and trainer scaled the heights of his profession riding Monksfield to win the Champion Hurdle in 1979 and also capturing the race as a trainer when saddling Hardy Eustace to victory in 2004 and 2005.
Ruby Walsh, like many jockeys, has also paid tribute to Dessie Hughes saying “Dessie Hughes was an absolute gentleman and I suppose he was one of the last old school Irish jockeys come trainers.
“He was a very good trainer with horses like Hardy Eustace and many great horses, but he was an absolute gentleman and a brilliant family man. All our thoughts are with Eileen, Richard, Sandra and all the rest of the family.
“Dessie Hughes will be a sad loss to everybody. He was a hugely popular guy. He will be at the foremost of everyone’s thoughts. It’s very sad.”
His fellow rival as both jockey and trainer, Jonjo O’Neill added “So sad to hear of passing of Dessie Hughes. We had some great tussles in the past and he was a lovely man.”
A minute’s silence was held at Cheltenham and Punchestown, with jockeys wearing black armbands as a mark of respect.