Dessie Hughes was one of Ireland’s most established and skilled trainers who had success with many different horses, with Hardy Eustace being one of the most notable. Like a lot of other trainers, he started out as a jockey and won the 1977 Cheltenham Gold Cup on Davy Lad. He also beat Sea Pigeon, riding Monksfield in his most famous victory in the Champion Hurdle.
He had always planned on training and took out his licence in 1980, after three years of planning. He had early succcess with Light The Wad who won the Irish Arkle at Leopardstown in 1982 and the 1981 and 1982 renewals of the Drogheda Chase at Punchestown.
As a jockey, won the Champion Hurdle on Monksfield and the 1977 Cheltenham Gold Cup on Davy Lad
After just two years of taking out his licence Hughes had a coveted Cheltenham victory with Miller Hill in the Supreme Novice Hurdle. Although things had started out well for Hughes a virus knocked his yard for quite a few years, from the late 1980s until well into the 1990s – it eventually turned out to be a fungus problem, but it had taken many years to diagnose.
In 2001 Hughes bought Hardy Eustace for IR£21,000 and Central House for IR£28,000, who went on to win a total of twenty-five races between them, including nine Grade Ones. Hardy Eustace in particular proved to be a consistent hurdler who was particularly forthcoming at Cheltenham. He ran his last race in April 2010 at Punchestown and earned over €1million in his career.
Hughes bought Schindlers Hunt at the Goffs Land Rover Sale for €28,000 and he went on to win the Grade One Durkan New Homes Novice Chase at Lepordstown and the Baileys Irish Arkle just one month later. He went on to win the 2008 renewal of the Dan Moore Handicap Chase and the the 2009 Leopardstown Handicap Chase before going on to be Grade One placed at Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown. He was proving himself to be another great horse but he sadly passed away at the age of 10 years following a fall at Aintree in 2010.
Having saddled eleven Grand National runners over the years, Black Apalachi is most definitely the one he was most noted for. He ran in 2008, 2009, 2010 and at age 13, again in 2012.
In 2011, Vic Venturi was Hughes’ other National hopeful, after stealing the show at the Beechers Chase in November 2009 and at just nine years of age was in his prime for this kind of race. Unfortunately he fell at the second but returned for another go in 2012 only to refuse at fence 19.
The 2013 renewal was far more successful when his runner, Rare Bob, with jockey Bryan Cooper on board, finished in 5th place and he didn’t have any runners in the 2014 renewal.
A terrific trainer, Dessie Hughes sadly passed away, aged 71, on November 16th 2014 and will be dearly missed by all in the racing community.
Picture by: David Davies/PA Archive/Press Association Images