Dessie Hughes

Last updated
Dessie Hughes
Occupation Trainer
Born Ireland
Died (aged 71)
Major racing wins
Champion Chase, Champion Hurdle, Cheltenham Gold Cup
Significant horses
Davy Lad, Hardy Eustace, Monksfield

Dessie Hughes was an Irish racehorse trainer and jockey. He was the father of British champion jockey, Richard Hughes, and won at the Cheltenham Festival as both jockey and trainer. [1]

Ireland Island in north-west Europe, 20th largest in world, politically divided into the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (a part of the UK)

Ireland is an island in the North Atlantic. It is separated from Great Britain to its east by the North Channel, the Irish Sea, and St George's Channel. Ireland is the second-largest island of the British Isles, the third-largest in Europe, and the twentieth-largest on Earth.

Horse trainer person training horses for racing, riding, show or work

A horse trainer is a person who tends to horses and teaches them different disciplines. Some of the responsibilities trainers have are caring for the animals’ physical needs, as well as teaching them submissive behaviors and/or coaching them for events, which may include contests and other riding purposes. The level of education and the yearly salary they can earn for this profession may differ depending on where the person is employed.

Jockey someone who rides horses in horse racing or steeplechase racing

A jockey is someone who rides horses in horse racing or steeplechase racing, primarily as a profession. The word also applies to camel riders in camel racing.



As a jockey

Hughes' most famous successes in the saddle came at the Cheltenham Festival. In 1977, he partnered the Mick O'Toole-trained Davy Lad to success in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Two years later, he was victorious in one of the most famous clashes in jumps racing history when Monksfield rode to a famous victory over Sea Pigeon in the Champion Hurdle. [2]

Mick O'Toole was an Irish racehorse trainer, whose horses competed in both Flat racing and National Hunt racing, and was active from 1966 to 1996, winning major races both in Ireland and Great Britain during the course of his career.

Cheltenham Gold Cup Steeplechase horse race in Britain

The Cheltenham Gold Cup is a Grade 1 National Hunt horse race run on the New Course at Cheltenham Racecourse in England, over a distance of about 3 miles 2½ furlongs, and during its running there are 22 fences to be jumped. The race takes place each year during the Cheltenham Festival in March.

Monksfield (1972-1989) was an Irish-trained National Hunt racehorse who won the Champion Hurdle in 1978 and 1979. He also won the Aintree Hurdle at Aintree Racecourse three times - including a dead-heat with Night Nurse, one of his two greatest rivals.

As a trainer

Hughes had always planned to train and having prepared for three years, he took out his training licence in 1980. Light The Wad was an early success for the fledgling yard, winning the Irish Arkle at Leopardstown in 1982 and successive renewals of the Drogheda Chase at the Punchestown Festival in 1981 and 1982. [2]

Leopardstown Racecourse horse racing venue in the Republic of Ireland

Leopardstown Racecourse is an Irish horse-racing venue, located in Leopardstown, Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown, 8km south of the Dublin city centre. Like the majority of Irish courses, it hosts both National Hunt and Flat racing.

That same year, 1982, he sent out Miller Hill to win the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. [2]

The Supreme Novices' Hurdle is a Grade 1 National Hunt hurdle race in Great Britain which is open to horses aged four years or older. It is run on the Old Course at Cheltenham over a distance of about 2 miles and ½ furlong, and during its running there are eight hurdles to be jumped. The race is for novice hurdlers, and it is scheduled to take place each year during the Cheltenham Festival in March.

Cheltenham Festival Horse racing festival

The Cheltenham Festival is a meeting in the National Hunt racing calendar in the United Kingdom, with race prize money second only to the Grand National. The festival takes place annually in March at Cheltenham Racecourse in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. The meeting usually coincides with Saint Patrick's Day, and is particularly popular with Irish visitors.

Other notable wins in the 1980s included Chow Mein in the 1985 Galway Plate, William Crump in the 1986 Huzzar Handicap Hurdle and Ballychorus Dream in the 1988 Drinmore Novice Chase. [2]

The Galway Plate is a National Hunt chase in Ireland which is open to horses aged four years or older. It is run at Galway over a distance of about 2 miles and 6½ furlongs, and during its running there are fourteen fences to be jumped. It is a handicap race, and it is scheduled to take place each year in late July or early August.

The Drinmore Novice Chase is a Grade 1 National Hunt chase in Ireland which is open to horses aged four years or older. It is run at Fairyhouse over a distance of about 2 miles and 4 furlongs, and during its running there are sixteen fences to be jumped. The race is for novice chasers, and it is scheduled to take place each year in late November or early December.

For a long time around the turn of the decade, a persistent bug plagued the yard and success was hard to come by.

Major success returned with Guest Performance who won six hurdle races between February 1996 and January 1997, before winning the Grade 3 Nas Na Riogh Novice Chase at Naas in 1998. Hughes won the race again with Colonel Braxton in 2002, a horse which had also won the Grade 1 Menolly Homes Champion Novice Hurdle.

The Nas Na Riogh Novice Chase is a Grade B National Hunt novice handicap chase in Ireland. It is run at Naas in February, over a distance of 2 miles and 4 furlongs and during the race there are 13 fences to be jumped.

Naas Racecourse is a horse racing venue in Naas, County Kildare, Ireland, approximately 18 miles from Dublin. The course stages both Flat racing and National Hunt racing and in 2010 fifteen race meetings were held there.

Hughes' most famous recruit, Hardy Eustace, was picked up for a mere IR£21,000 in 2001, yet went on to win at the very highest level. In his novice hurdle season, he won the Grade 1 Royal Bond Novice Hurdle and the Sun Alliance Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. The horse went on to win the 2004 and 2005 Champion Hurdles and the Punchestown equivalent in 2004. Success also came in the Irish Champion Hurdle in 2007. By the time he retired at the end of the 2009/10 season, he had earned well over €1,000,000 in prize money. [2]

Bought at the same sale as Hardy Eustace for a similar sum, Central House was almost as successful, winning five Grade 2 contests, one Grade 1 and being placed in seven other Graded chases, accumulating just over €515,000 in prize money during his career. [2]

Other Graded race winners have included Schindlers Hunt, Grangeclare Lark and Grand National performers Rare Bob, Black Apalachi and Vic Venturi.

Former apprentice of Hughes', Pat Dobbs spoke highly of his time with the yard. “Dessie did more work around the yard than most of us lads. He was first out every morning and used to muck out just across from me, telling me to hurry up when I was too slow. He was a great horseman and paid attention to every detail.” [3]

Principal jockeys

Major wins


As a jockey

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As a trainer

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  1. 1 2 "Dessie Hughes | Donn McClean Racing". 29 March 2009. Retrieved 18 March 2018.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Trainer Profiles: Dessie Hughes". Horse Racing Ireland. December 2011. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
  3. Lee, Alan (31 July 2015). "Pat Dobbs looking to make the most of new opportunities". The Times . Retrieved 25 October 2017.