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.
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. RIP. pic.twitter.com/wHFRVWUHgY
— Brian Kavanagh (@bkav2011) December 19, 2017
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”.
Very sad to hear of the passing of Noel o Brian a true gent RIP
— Davy Russell (@_Davy_Russel_) December 19, 2017
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”.
Completely floored by the sad news of Noel O'Brien's passing. A lovely man and a class act who always said hello at the races. Did a few Cheltenham Preview nights with him over the years and his knowledge was frightening. A huge loss to Irish racing. RIP
— Brian Flanagan (@BHDFlanagan) December 19, 2017
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.”
RIP Mr Noel O'Brien, a much loved character in Irish Racing who will be sadly missed . Our thoughts are with Noel's friends and family at this very sad time. pic.twitter.com/jbDPJdMtYp
— Leopardstown RC (@LeopardstownRC) December 19, 2017
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. RIP. pic.twitter.com/w7aFuMMAoM
— FairyhouseRacecourse (@Fairyhouse) December 19, 2017
A very sad day for Irish Racing as news breaks this morning that Senior NH Handicapper Noel O’Brien has passed away overnight. A wonderful man, with a heart as big as a house, a personality like no other - we extend deepest sympathy to his family & many friends. pic.twitter.com/7cQ8wxAy0y
— Bellewstown Races (@BellwstownRaces) December 19, 2017
Such was the twinkle in Noel O’Brien’s eye and his enormous passion for jump racing, even a passing hello made you feel a bit better about life - although he generally made sure he stopped for a chat. Noel was a lovely man of the very highest order. RIP.
— Lee Mottershead (@leemottershead) December 19, 2017
Didn’t even know Noel O’Brien was ill, big shock. The genial public face of Irish handicapping, he will be missed. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam.
— Denis (@carvillshill) December 19, 2017