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Death of racing great Hughes

Dessie Hughes, one of Ireland's racing greats as a trainer and before that as a jockey, has died at the age of 71.

He enjoyed huge success in both spheres, riding Monksfield to win the Champion Hurdle in 1979 and also saddling Hardy Eustace to victory in the Cheltenham Festival highlight in 2004 and 2005.

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

Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland, tweeted: "RIP Dessie Hughes. A great trainer, great jockey and an absolute gentleman. Sympathies to Eileen, Richard and Sandra."

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

"He'd had some hard times, but he'd come through and seemed to be enjoying the best of his career. It's a sad day for everyone and for racing."

Eddie O'Leary, racing manager for leading owners Gigginstown House Stud, who had horses with Hughes, said: "He was a fantastic trainer and a lovely man. He was a true gent. He will be sorely and deeply missed by all in racing.

"Thunder Of Roses will not run at Punchestown today as a mark of respect to the man."

Another of Hughes's patrons was Barry Connell, who sent him the exciting novice chaser The Tullow Tank at the start of this season and also owned top hurdler Our Conor.

He said: "The first thing to say about Dessie is that he was an absolute gentleman. He had a fantastic career in racing. As a jockey he rode the winner of a Gold Cup and a Champion Hurdle.

"As a trainer, he trained the Champion Hurdle winner twice. He was a man who was very loyal to his staff and respected them a lot. He was very much an old school trainer, who was very hands on and took great pride in his horses and his staff.

" He also took great pride in his family, particularly Richard. It was marvellous he was able to see him be champion jockey.

"I think one of his best attributes was his ability to train. When he got a good horse he was able to keep him sound year after year and the horses always ran to their highest level of form. He'll be sadly missed."

Paul Hensey, general manager at the Curragh racecourse, said: "He was a gentleman through and through.

"He was a great trainer, a great rider and he was on our Curragh trainers liaison committee for some time. It was always a great pleasure to deal with him and to work for. It's very sad for his family and everybody who has worked for him."

A minute's silence was held at Cheltenham and Punchestown, with jockeys wearing black armbands as a mark of respect.

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