Belfast Telegraph

Minister hails Cheltenham victories

Irish racehorse breeders, trainers and jockeys have been congratulated on their record-breaking performance at this week's Cheltenham festival.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney paid tribute to the 15 Irish-bred, 13 Irish-trained and 22 Irish-ridden winners.

He said each had demonstrated the strength of the Irish bloodstock industry.

"This week's success at Cheltenham proved that this country is a true leader in the equine world and shows the value of the pursuit of excellence," he said.

"As a country, we should take pride in our success and encouragement from our achievements.

"At a time of economic adversity, the success of Irish breeders, trainers and jockeys shows what we are capable of in this country, which has such a rich equine history and heritage.

"The Irish bloodstock industry is of enormous economic benefit to this country, providing 16,000 jobs and exports worth some 150 million euro to 36 countries in 2010.

"It was particularly noteworthy that the Irish-trained horses came from so many different counties, including Carlow, Kildare, Meath, Tipperary, Waterford and Wexford, thus demonstrating the value of the industry throughout the country."

Mr Coveney acknowledged the individual breeders, trainers and jockeys and various organisations who are essential to the industry's success, and said he was looking forward with confidence to the forthcoming Fairyhouse and Punchestown festivals and 2011 flat-racing season.

"I want to congratulate Willie Mullin, Ruby Walsh and Michael O'Leary on their respective achievements as leading trainer, leading jockey and winning-most owner at the 2011 Cheltenham festival," he added.

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