Willie Mullins and Paul Townend have officially been confirmed as champion trainer and jockey respectively for the 2019/2020 National Hunt season in Ireland, following the announcement earlier this week that the Fairyhouse and Punchestown Festivals would not be rescheduled.
The Government in Ireland last month announced the cancellation of all sporting events due to the coronavirus outbreak, including those behind closed doors, until at least April 19. A number of meetings had taken place behind closed doors in Ireland up until then.
At a meeting of the Horse Racing Ireland board on Wednesday, a strategy was discussed that would allow Irish racing to return as quickly as possible once appropriate to do so and within Government guidelines.
The board said it recognised that, at least initially, racing would restart on the Flat and most likely behind closed doors, with adherence to strict social distancing protocols as were successfully operated at 10 race fixtures in March.
Mullins has secured the trainers’ championship for the 14th time, while Townend takes champion rider honours for the third time and Gigginstown House Stud once again champion owner.
The champion conditional award goes to Darragh O’Keeffe. Patrick Mullins is top amateur and Lisa O’Neill champion amateur lady rider.
Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of HRI, said: “I send my congratulations to all our champions.
“While it is unfortunate it was not possible to complete another thrilling season with the big festivals at Fairyhouse and Punchestown, since the season began last May we have been treated to some incredible memories and high-class performances.
“All of our champions are worthy winners and their achievements in the National Hunt season gone by will be officially recognised at the appropriate time and place in the future.”
Mullins’ victories included emotional Grade One triumphs for Faugheen over fences at Limerick and Leopardstown, and he also enjoyed top-level successes through Saldier, Min, Chacun Pour Soi, Asterion Forlonge and Sharjah.
Townend – riding as number one to Mullins for the first time following the retirement of Ruby Walsh – recorded a personal-best total of 109 winners last season and was well on the way to bettering that before the season was cut short, as he stood on the 104 mark.