Recently-retired jockeys Pat Smullen and Noel Fehily were among those honoured at the Professional Jockeys Association’s Lesters Awards 2019 on Saturday evening, in a ceremony on Sky Sports Racing.
Smullen, nine-times champion Irish Flat jockey and the winner of multiple Classics, including the Derby aboard Harzand in 2016, has been battling cancer and decided to hang up his riding boots in May, bringing to an end an illustrious career.
“It’s been an emotional roller coaster really,” said Smullen.
“The highs of how lucky I’ve been throughout my career, and I suppose this is the ultimate low.
“But we’re getting through it well, I had a great support structure when I was riding and I have it now when I’m getting through this. I think that’s why it’s going so well, because I have that.
“I’m very fortunate that I’ve got a great family, great friends. Racing is a great industry with great people in it. Everyone wants to help in any possible way that they can, and that gives you great hope and great strength to keep pushing forward.”
Fehily had his final ride at Newbury in March, after announcing his impending retirement after winning on Eglantine Du Seuil at the Cheltenham Festival.
The Irishman lifted the Champion Hurdle trophy twice on Rock On Ruby and Buveur D’Air, as well as the the Champion Chase on Special Tiara and two King George VI Chases on Silviniaco Conti.
“I got better as I got older I suppose,” said Fehily.
“I think I got on better horses as time went on, the last few seasons were great and I rode a lot of good horses.
“It was a long career, I rode a lot of good horses and a lot of winners and had a great time of it.”
The pair were given special recognition awards, while Richard Johnson and Oisin Murphy, who won their respective jockeys’ championships this year, were chosen as the Jump Jockey of the Year and Flat Jockey of the Year award recipients.
Hollie Doyle was voted Lady Jockey of the Year following her fantastic season which saw her break the British record for the most winners in a year by a female jockey, overtaking Josephine Gordon’s best of 106.
Champion apprentice Cieren Fallon received the Lester for Apprentice Jockey of the Year, while Jonjo O’Neill Jnr was presented with the Conditional Jockey of the Year award.
Sky Sports Racing viewers chose Mattie Batchelor’s ride on Noble Glance at Fontwell on August 22 as their Jump Ride of the Year, with the Racing TV audience voting for Paul Hanagan’s ride on Dutch Decoy at Hamilton on August 30 for the Flat Ride of the Year award.
Paul Struthers, chief executive of the PJA, said: “The Lesters are always a special occasion for the jockeys so we can’t thank Sky Sports Racing enough for agreeing to host this live special with Luke (Harvey) and Jason (Weaver), as well as Racing TV for assisting us with the rides of the year footage.
“We’re delighted for all the winners and hope they enjoy their early Christmas present. Particular congratulations go to Pat and Noel, as joining the illustrious roles of honour of Special Recognition recipients clearly demonstrates the regard in which they are held by their peers.”