Dessie Hughes: Trainer of Hardy Eustace dies aged 71

Dessie Hughes
Dessie Hughes won the 1977 Cheltenham Gold Cup on Davy Lad

Leading Irish racehorse trainer Dessie Hughes, the father of champion jockey Richard, has died aged 71.

Dessie was one of jump racing's best-known characters, who enjoyed successful riding and training careers.

He won the 1977 Cheltenham Gold Cup on Davy Lad and the Champion Hurdle two years later with Monksfield.

As a trainer, Hughes secured the big Cheltenham hurdle in 2004 and 2005 with Hardy Eustace, while Black Apalachi was second in the 2010 Grand National.

Conor O'Dwyer rode Hardy Eustace in both his Champion Hurdle triumphs and 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.

"It's a sad day for everyone and for racing."

BBC racing correspondent Cornelius Lysaght
"Dessie Hughes, quiet and thoughtful, was much-admired for being as decent as he was talented. During a golden era for top hurdlers during the 1970s, when Night Nurse, Sea Pigeon and Monksfield were the star names, Hughes took over riding Ireland's Monksfield for some memorable encounters including an epic defeat of Sea Pigeon in the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival of 1979. Not many leading jockeys reach great heights as trainers, but Hughes managed it back at his beloved Cheltenham with Hardy Eustace."

In 2013, Our Conor gave Hughes his last winner at Cheltenham in the Triumph Hurdle. The horse suffered a fatal injury when running in this year's Champion Hurdle.

At the Cheltenham meeting on Sunday, there was a tribute to Hughes before a minute's silence, while jockeys wore black armbands.

Jockeys and trainers took to Twitter to post their tributes.

Bryan Cooper,external-link who rode the Our Conor to victory in the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham last year, said Hughes was "one of the greatest trainers that we've ever seen and by far the best mentor and friend anyone could ever ask for".

Barry Geraghty,external-link the 2003 Grand National winner, said: "Very sad news to hear of Dessie Hughes's passing. A legend of our sport and thorough gentleman."

Fellow trainer Jonjo O'Neillexternal-link said he was "so sad to hear of passing of Dessie Hughes, we had some great tussles in the past and he was a lovely man", while Henry de Bromheadexternal-link called Hughes a "wonderful trainer, wonderful jockey and a wonderful man".

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

Jockeys pay tribute to Dessie Hughes at Cheltenham Racecourse
Jockeys paid tribute to Dessie Hughes at Cheltenham Racecourse

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