‘A huge loss to Ireland’ – Horse racing in mourning as Noel O’Brien dies aged 57

‘A huge loss to Ireland’ – Horse racing in mourning as Noel O’Brien dies aged 57

TRIBUTES have been flooding in for senior Irish handicapper Noel O’Brien who has died at the age of just 57.

The hugely popular Co. Kildare native passed away at St James’s Hospital in Dublin following a long illness.

O’Brien underwent surgery for esophageal cancer in June and died six months later in intensive care after complications arose following the operation.

The Irishman was instrumental in establishing the Anglo-Irish Classifications, which allocates handicap marks to Irish runners in Britain and vice versa.

He had worked for the Turf Club since leaving school and held the role of senior handicapper since 1995.

Tributes poured in on Twitter following the news of his loss on Tuesday morning, with chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland Brian Kavanagh describing O’Brien as an “absolute gentleman”.

Mr Kavanagh said: “A light went out in Irish racing overnight with the passing of Noel O’Brien.

"A gentleman who always had time for people. Popular in a job where that is not easy.

“Passionate about National Hunt racing. A huge loss to his family, to racing and to his wide circle of friends”.

Former champion jockey Davy Russell was also among those to pay tribute, tweeting: “Very sad to hear of the passing of Noel O’Brien, a true gent. RIP”.

Fairyhouse Racecourse, also on Twitter, added: "So sad news to hear of the passing of Noel O'Brien on the run-up to Christmas.

“He was a gentleman and was always there to help anyone in this sport. To his family and huge circle of friends, everyone at Fairyhouse sends their deepest sympathy.”